For virus tracking, wastewater is liquid gold. Scientists hope that work isn’t flushed away – CBC

Scientists want to scale up global sewage surveillance, as others fear funding may be insecure post-pandemic

Sep 17, 2022

One night in March 2020, as wastewater researcher Robert Delatolla was making dinner at his Ottawa home, his wife wondered out loud: Was it possible to spot the novel coronavirus in the city’s sewage system?

Delatolla had spent years of his environmental engineering career exploring wastewater treatment technologies — not tracking viruses. He scoffed at the idea.

“I obnoxiously said, ‘It won’t work,'” the University of Ottawa professor recalled.

A few days later, Delatolla realized his wife was right. In late March, Dutch researchers announced wastewater surveillance efforts in the Netherlands were successfully identifying the virus behind COVID-19, even before official cases were reported.

Delatolla and his laboratory team raced to get a similar system up and running. “By April 8th, 2020, we were able to get our first detection,” he said. “That was our first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater in Canada.”

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