A study led by scientists in IIT-Gandhinagar, has discovered for the first time genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater. The latest research is expected to pave the way for using wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) for real-time surveillance of COVID-19 in the country.
The study found that increased gene copies of the virus in Ahmedabad’s wastewater matched the incidence of the disease in the city. With this, India joins the ranks of a handful of countries doing WBE on COVID-19, Andrew Singer, an environmental microbiologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said on Twitter.
In the latest study released on June 18, scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Gandhinagar collaborated with the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC) and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). They studied samples of wastewater collected on May 8 and May 27 from the Old Pirana Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Ahmedabad.
The plant receives up to 106 million litres per day (MLD) of influent from the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital which is treating COVID-19 patients, explained Manish Kumar of the Discipline of Earth Sciences, IITGN, who led the research effort.
All the three SARS-CoV-2 genes — ORF1ab, N and S — were found in the wastewater coming into the treatment plant, said the researchers, who have submitted their study for publication in the international journal ‘Science of the Total Environment’.