UofL’s wastewater testing identifies new COVID-19 strain ahead of other testing methods
University of Louisville research that uses wastewater to monitor the rates of COVID-19 infection was first to identify a variant in Louisville, alerting officials ahead of other testing methods and giving them valuable time to work to contain it.
UofL detected the variant, a Brazilian strain known as P.1, early in April in a wastewater sample from western Jefferson County. Once researchers received the results, they alerted the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness as well as the state, which confirmed a positive case in the same zip codes with different testing methods a week later.
“The ability to detect viruses early, such as in this case, gives officials more time to take precautions and contain their spread,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, professor of medicine and director of UofL’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, which leads the wastewater research. “With pandemics, every second counts. In as little as one week, the virus can spread significantly, and then it becomes much harder to contain. This work gives us more time and an opportunity for targeted testing.”