New variants now better detected in wastewater sampling

Jul 23, 2021

MOREHEAD CITY – Researchers here participating in a newly expanded program now have the capability through sampling and analysis of public wastewater to quickly see the emergence of COVID-19 variants of concern in specific municipalities, a potentially valuable early warning system for outbreaks as people return to schools and work settings.

“What this means is that as new variants emerge that are really dangerous — and these will happen — that might cause more severe disease or more severe numbers of hospitalizations. We’re working with a company that develops these tests as these variants circulate around the world. They’re developing the tests in real time,” said Dr. Rachel Noble, an environmental molecular microbiologist at the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City.

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