Concept: Wisconsin’s biotech company Promega has introduced wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), or sewershed surveillance solution to track the COVID-19 outbreak. WBE is the analysis of the wastewater to identify the presence of biological or chemical substances for the monitoring of public health. It tracks the COVID-19 outbreak quickly and aims to provide early detection of the potential outbreak to take measures for curbing it.

Nature of Disruption: For WBE, Promega offers two kits, namely  Maxwell RSC Enviro Total Nucleic Acid Kit, an automated method for purification of viral nucleic acids, as well as the manual Wizard Enviro Total Nucleic Acid Kit. The purification kit is used with SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Kit for wastewater to complete the workflow for monitoring SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater. The monitoring takes less than four hours to generate results that help in taking quick informed decisions. Collected consistently, the data collected in wastewater monitoring predicts major outbreaks as much as seven days earlier than clinical tests thereby saving a significant amount of time. As it obtains population-wide data, WBE is more cost-efficient than individually testing thousands of patients.

Outlook: The levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater reflect the trends in infection rates in each community. Individuals infected with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their feces before they show any symptoms. These test kits are for single-use and can test only a single person. To detect the outbreak of COVID-19 in any region, the infected and non-infected people have to be tested individually to confirm it. This takes a considerable amount of time and effort to take any decisive action to curb or control the outbreak. With WBE, the wastewater samples reveal the status of the potential outbreak, if any. The early warning thus helps to curb or avoid any major outbreaks or gives enough time to regional administration to take necessary curbing or controlling the action. Preventive or reactive decision taking is expedited to handle pandemic situations once the potential region with the outbreak is isolated from the vulnerable general population.

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