Scientists are working on a new wastewater testing method that could detect most infectious diseases. The test, which is still in development, works by looking for pieces of DNA that are shed by infected cells.
If the test proves to be accurate, it could be used to track the spread of diseases and help control outbreaks. It could also be used to screen patients before they undergo surgery or receive a transplant, to ensure that they are not infected with a disease that could be passed on to the recipient.
The test is not yet ready for widespread use, but the scientists who are developing it are optimistic that it will eventually help to save lives.
A new wastewater testing program is expected to help
monitor for most infectious diseases, including COVID-19, in Vermont.
The state is partnering with the Vermont Department of Health and the University of Vermont to test for a range of pathogens in wastewater.
The move comes as the state looks to increase its surveillance of infectious diseases and as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the coronavirus is likely to spread through sewage.
Wastewater testing is already being used to track the spread of COVID-19 in some European countries and has been piloted in a few U.S. states.
The Vermont program will initially focus on testing for three pathogens: norovirus, rotavirus, and enterovirus D68, which can cause severe respiratory illness.
But the state says the program could eventually be expanded to test for other pathogens, including COVID-19.
The program will use a technology called “viral metagenomics” to detect the presence of viruses in wastewater.
The data collected will be used to help public health officials track the spread of diseases and to identify potential hot spots.
The program is expected to cost about $50,000 a year, with the state covering half of the cost and the university and health department splitting the rest.