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The Game Changing Coronavirus Early Warning System
8 October 2020
In the fight against Coronavirus, scientists and engineers globally have adapted and innovated, developing novel methods to safely restart economies and maintain business continuity by getting ahead of the SARS-CoV‑2 Coronavirus.
By sampling and analysing wastewater directly from sewers, Arcadis is providing an early warning system detecting SARS-CoV‑2 infections within a workforce or population.Molecular biological tools can amplify and enumerate genetic material specifically from the SARS-CoV‑2 virus allowing detection and quantification of the viral load. Assessing the number of SARS-CoV‑2 virus particle (virions) in wastewater can identify whether asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals are unwittingly transmitting infections within a facility, city, or region, before a COVID-19 outbreak is discovered. This approach has been proven to assess levels of infections within a community well ahead of reported COVID-19 cases, with Arcadis data showing 6 – 14 days advanced warning.
With this method it is possible to identify and isolate infected individuals, before COVID-19 cases manifest and impinge on business operations. If increases of detectable virions in wastewater are reported, a rapid response can be mobilized, in order to maintain workplace safety and business continuity, rather than closing down entire facilities. Tracking upstream of an initial sampling point – in a wastewater system – can identify the sources of the virus within a facility, campus, city or region. Within buildings, infected individuals can be rapidly identified by environmental monitoring of their surroundings, by swabbing surfaces and using molecular biology tools to identify the virus on surfaces such as doors, desks and ventilation filters.
The Sentinel early warning system has been described as the “canary in the coal mine” to get ahead of the virus and potentially plan targeted lockdowns before COVID-19 outbreaks take hold, allowing faster economic recovery. This simple and cost-effective monitoring of wastewater can keep facilities operating by rapidly detecting the virus before it gets a chance to transmit amongst colleagues. Further targeted sampling can identify carriers allowing them to be isolated to maintain COVID-secure operations. In the Netherlands the Mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam have already used data from monitoring SARS-CoV‑2 prevalence in wastewater to strengthen lockdown measures in advance of COVID-19 outbreaks to keep their cities safe.Surveillance of wastewater is faster and has been calculated to be orders of magnitude cheaper than clinical screening yet cannot fully replace it. This approach guides the use of clinical screening, identifying where to apply it. Effective surveillance for SARS-CoV‑2 infections may be envisioned as a two-step process in which a wastewater based Sentinel approach serves to identify and enumerate infected cases, where after targeted clinical human testing then serves to identify infected individuals in the hotspots revealed by the pooled wastewater survey Arcadis is assisting clients to stay operating and cities to stay open by providing a Sentinel service, bringing back control and confidence, as we work to overcome this virus.