Apr 11, 2022 - COVID

Researchers want to expand wastewater surveillance

Illustration of a tiled wall with a COVID cell cut into a sheet of toilet paper on the roll.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Arkansas scientists want to study your poop.

What's happening: Three University of Arkansas professors are applying for a $30 million grant from the CDC to expand surveillance, research and training for the COVID-19 virus and other diseases in wastewater, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Why it matters: Wastewater can be an early indicator of how a disease is spreading or abating in a community. Aggregate data across the U.S. could help predict the next surge of COVID-19.

  • More than 700 sites in the U.S. report data to the National Wastewater Surveillance System, Axios' Tina Reed and Kavya Beheraj report.
  • But data are scant in some locations, including Arkansas where only Mississippi County reports to the agency. Just one other site in the state — Redfield in central Arkansas — tests wastewater for the virus.

The intrigue: One of the U of A scientists analyzed wastewater samples from sites in Northwest and central Arkansas in 2020.

  • The samples showed the virus increased in wastewater three to five days before an uptick in community cases was reported.

What we're watching: If the team receives the grant, participating researchers plan to expand the number of sites in the state that test for COVID and track variants of the virus.

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