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Early COVID-19 alert through sewage in UK

10:52 PM Oct 23, 2020 | Aditi Khanna

A UK government-led project is working on detecting traces of coronavirus in sewerage to provide an early warning for local outbreaks and sharing the data with the official National Health Service (NHS) Test and Trace network as part of efforts to control the spread of infections.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said that the programme, which was first announced in June, has now proven that fragments of genetic material from the virus can be detected in wastewater. This can then indicate where a local community or an institution is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

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"This is a significant step forward in giving us a clearer idea of infection rates both nationally and locally, particularly in areas where there may be large numbers of people who aren't showing any symptoms and therefore aren't seeking tests," said UK Environment Secretary George Eustice.

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