Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Wastewater is proving a valuable resource to genetically track the spread of the coronavirus — and the emergence of new variants.

Why it matters: As long as widescale testing and genetic surveillance remains constrained, we'll always be a step behind COVID-19. But sequencing sewage presents a cheap and simple way of keeping tabs on viral spread within a community.

What's happening: While Missouri has reported only one confirmed coronavirus variant case — the B.1.1.7 U.K. variant — genetic sequencing of community wastewater found evidence of it this week in more than 13 communities around the state.

How it works: Wastewater surveillance takes advantage of two things: increasingly inexpensive genetic sequencing tools and the undeniable fact that almost everything that goes into our body eventually ends up in sewage.

  • "In the same way that you analyze information about the health of an individual by looking at their urine and stool, you can look at wastewater and very rapidly understand things about an entire community," says Newsha Ghaeli, president of Biobot Analytics, a startup that specializes in wastewater epidemiology.

Background: Ghaeli launched Biobot in 2017 with Mariana Matus, a computational and systems biologist at MIT. They originally aimed to use wastewater epidemiology to identify areas where opioid abuse was prevalent.

  • Once COVID-19 hit, they pivoted to monitoring wastewater samples for the virus, which gave clear indications of outbreaks before hospitals were overwhelmed.
  • Biobot has worked with more than 400 communities around the U.S. and Canada to track the spread of the virus, which helps local leaders better time outbreak controls.

What to watch: The big board at the wonderfully named COVIDPoops19, a dashboard maintained by researchers at the University of California-Merced that tracks wastewater surveillance efforts around the world.

The bottom line: For epidemiologists, at least, sewage is anything but garbage.

Go deeper: Why COVID demands genetic surveillance

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 27, 2021 - Health

Coronavirus variants demand a tougher response

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New, more contagious coronavirus variants threaten the U.S. response to COVID-19 just as the best tools to fight it are becoming available.

Why it matters: As our response to COVID-19 evolves and improves with the introduction of vaccines, so does SARS-CoV-2 itself, with new variants emerging. The next few months will demand harsher measures to control the pandemic at the very moment when exhaustion is peaking.

Jan 28, 2021 - Health

South Carolina reports first-known U.S. cases of South African COVID variant

A health care worker giving a patient a dose of coronavirus vaccine in an assisted living home in Sumter, S.C., on Jan. 26. Photo: Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images

South Carolina health officials have reported the first-known U.S. COVID-19 cases of a fast-spreading variant discovered in South Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday.

Why it matters: Though the CDC has "no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease," preliminary data indicates it may spread faster and more easily than other variants.

Mar 20, 2021 - Health

Fauci: U.K. variant may account for 30% of U.S. coronavirus infections

Anthony Fauci during a Senate hearing committee on March 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom may account for up to 30% of new COVID infections across the U.S., NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said during a White House briefing on the virus Friday.

Why it matters: The variant, called B.1.1.7, has been detected throughout the U.S., and studies have suggested it appears to spread more easily than the original strain of the virus.