How to prevent second wave of Coronavirus: Israeli scientists start new study

By: |
May 5, 2020 2:10 PM

The head of Ben Gurion University’s biotechnology engineering lab and the lead scholar on the panel Ariel Kushmaro has said that their work has established the fact that the virus is present in feces and it’s just the matter of the extent of its presence in the sewage of different communities.

A team of scientists has announced that for much of the COVID-19 crisis it has tracked the nation’s excrement.

Every Israeli’s toilet flushes will soon play a central role in efforts to avoid a second wave of the pandemic coronavirus as the health authorities are concerned about potential outbreaks as Israel’s COVID-19 cases wane, The Times of Israel reported. They are determined to identify them early, using data from swab tests on a local level but capability testing isn’t through as quickly as they would have expected. Now, a team of scientists has announced that for much of the COVID-19 crisis it has tracked the nation’s excrement, and has the know-how to track where outbreaks occur based on the amount of genetic material or virus proteins present in the feces.

The research group is working closely with the Ministry of Health and hopes that sewage testing will become part of Israel’s national battle against the virus after health officials study their new system. It has also posted its approach on an open-source website and is willing to see it widely repeated.

The Israeli team gathered wastewater samples through much of the lockout, from Haifa in northern Israel to the Negev in the south. The scientists argue that there is no ethical issue, as the approach does not require collecting health data on any person, but only community or city-based information that can be used for early intervention. It says health officials should be able to respond as they see fit to alerts, likely with local lockdowns or regional demands for revitalized social distancing. Even sewer data may be used to end lockdowns when a decline is seen in cases of coronavirus.

Members of the group include Itay Bar-Or, Director of the National Center for Environmental Virology at the Ministry of Health, and Yakir Berchenko of Ben Gurion, who is known for his intervention during a 2013 polio outbreak. Berchenko gave health authorities time to run a vaccine program by monitoring the level of polio in water, before any children were crippled by the disease.

The head of Ben Gurion University’s biotechnology engineering lab and the lead scholar on the panel Ariel Kushmaro has said that their work has established the fact that the virus is present in feces and it’s just the matter of the extent of its presence in the sewage of different communities.

Kushmaro told The Times of Israel that now that his work has been published on an open-source website, it can be used to enable neighborhood by neighborhood knowledge to be tracked and gleaned from sewage anywhere in the world. He added that the presence of Sars-Cov-2 in sewage does not concern people as the prevalent, but not yet established, the assumption among scientists is that the coronavirus can not be collected from sewage or filtered wastewater.

Kushmaro’s team is now refining its operation, saying that if it follows its recommendation for a national sewage monitoring system, it can start testing sewage quickly nationwide. Nir has expressed hope that all these efforts will come in handy for the next flood or for the next outbreak. He said swab testing is still required to collect accurate data, but sewage monitoring gives a wide image of the country as a whole faster and more inexpensively than mass testing.

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