UB, Erie County sleuth for COVID-19 in wastewater

Jun 14, 2021

The key to spotting and stopping a future COVID-19 flare-up — or other infectious diseases like seasonal flu or hepatitis A — could lie within wastewater.

That was the takeaway from a virtual news conference hosted yesterday by UB and Erie County.

Since last fall, county officials have been working with Ian Bradley, assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, to examine the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in wastewater.

Officials have been gathering samples from roughly a dozen sites throughout the county, including several at UB. The samples are taken to Bradley’s North Campus lab, where he and students use specialized equipment to detect the virus. The information is then shared on a COVID-19 wastewater dashboard, which was made public yesterday.

Because people often shed traces of SARS-CoV-2 before they’re symptomatic, it’s possible the work could help identify a potential outbreak days before it occurs, thus giving officials critical time to prevent further spread of the disease.

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