Wastewater samples show spread of COVID-19 variants, rapid progression

Jun 23, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - As health leaders across Southwest Missouri continue to stress the significance of increased cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant, researchers say they have been able to track the rapid progression of variants through wastewater.

While wastewater analysis of COVID-19 is nothing new, checking it for mutations has become a big focus lately.

“We’ve been looking at trends of COVID-19 since May of 2020,” said Jeff Wenzel with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “We’ve been doing some new testing looking at mutations and variants in February 2021.”

Variations, like the Delta variant, have started becoming more and more dominant.

”We are seeing it in more locations where we are testing,” Wenzel said. “These last results from the week of June 7 we saw it in 27 of the 30 locations we tested.”

Researchers at the University of Missouri have keenly analyzed samples across the state in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Researchers said sewage samples can help provide a much larger sense of recent trends.

”It sort of gives us an unbiased read-out,” University of Missouri Professor Marc Johnson said. “I like to say it’s a reality check. You only know what you know. So you only know the results of people who got tested, you don’t know how many people didn’t get tested for whatever reason.”

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