UW-Madison Wastewater Surveillance Program begins statewide sampling

Sep 17, 2020

In March, Martin Shafer, a scientist at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) and UW-Madison College of Engineering, noticed a trend in COVID-19 testing techniques. 

Scientists in the Netherlands and Paris had begun using wastewater-based epidemiology to paint a picture of community-wide virus levels. States including Virginia, Utah and Oregon were not far behind.

At the time, human testing was being organized but remained unavailable in most places. WSLH, though, had the expertise and molecular tools for wastewater testing in house. 

“This is something that our lab, as the primary public health lab in the state, should pick up on,” Shafer thought.

Now, almost seven months later, Shafer and his team at WSLH, in collaboration with Sandra McClellan and scientists at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, have begun sampling for SARS-CoV-2, the genetic material that causes COVID-19, at wastewater treatment facilities statewide.

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