The early warning system for COVID-19 is achieved more quickly by detecting and locating wastewater


Professor Oded Berman is Professor of Operations Management and Statistics at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He was a tenured chair of the Sidney C. Cooper Chair in Business and Technology and a former associate dean of Rotman School programs. His main research interests include operations management in the service industry, location theory, network models, and stochastic inventory control. Credit: Rotman School

Mathematics remains a powerful force against COVID-19.

His latest contribution is , using municipal wastewater systems, to determine key sites in the detection and screening of COVID-19 to its human source, which may be a newly infected person or a hot spot of infected people. According to the researchers who created the algorithm, timing is key, especially when COVID-19 is best transmitted, thanks to emerging variants.

“Being fast is what we want because, in the meantime, a newly infected person can infect others,” said Oded Berman, a professor of operations management and statistics at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

This latest research is based on previous work that Professor Berman did with researchers Richard Larson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Mehdi Nourinejad of York University. The trio initially developed two algorithms to identify locations of choice in for manual testing of COVID-19 and subsequent follow-up to the source. Sewers are a rich environment for detecting the presence of the disease upstream, as the genetic remnants of their virus are released into the feces of infected people for up to a week before they can even know they are sick.

The new research of the researchers perfects and optimizes this initial work modeling more precisely the network of channels and sewers of unidirectional of a system of typical municipal sewerage and accelerating the process of detection / tracing by means of installed in specific input holes, chosen according to an easier-to-use algorithm.

In this scenario, a sensor sends an alert every time COVID-19 is detected. The manual tests are then performed in a few river holes above, also chosen according to the , until the final source is located, be it a small group of houses or a “hotspot” neighborhood. Residents in this much smaller area can then be contacted for testing and isolation as needed, limiting possible new outbreaks.

Applying this approach to a wastewater system with 2,000 sewers shows that only seven sensors should be installed along the network to detect and track COVID-19 to its source in one day. .

“Sensors allow us to manually visualize fewer sewers than in our previous work and detect infection much earlier,” Professor Berman said.

Although these sensors are not yet available, this technology is in development. Rapid and accurate COVID-19 field testing and field testing will also be required to fine-tune the system.

The results are promising not only for detecting COVID-19, but also for other viruses, such as noroviruses that are highly infectious and cause vomiting and diarrhea. There is also a possibility that the work will be used in the monitoring of crystal methamphetamine laboratories and the illegal production of pumps, due to the chemical by-products that end up in wastewater.

Professor Berman often works on future issues, such as the introduction of autonomous cars, doing his research on wastewater the first time he applies his experience to an urgent global problem.

“It’s exciting to work on something that is so much needed and that can have the potential to help people soon,” he said. “It’s very different from what I’ve done before.”

COVID-19 wastewater testing is effective in a new study

More information:
Mehdi Nourinejad et al, Placement of sensors in sewer networks: a system to identify new cases of coronavirus, PLOS ONE (2021). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0248893

Citation: The early warning system for COVID-19 is accelerated thanks to the detection and tracking of wastewater (2021, June 4), recovered on June 4, 2021 at /2021-06-early-covid-faster-wastewater.html

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