Wastewater analysis, a unique tool in the fight against the coronavirus

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Analysis of wastewater in sewers or in treatment plants could make it possible to follow, or even anticipate, the evolution of the epidemic in the countries. In France, a research project called Obépine takes this type of measurement. It was set up several months ago.

Track down traces of coronavirus in wastewater, excreted via the stool. The approach may not seem very inviting, but it is of real scientific and collective interest. So why waste water?

« The SARS-CoV-2 at the origin of this disease called Covid-19 is a virus mainly with respiratory transmission and it is also known that there is a probable replication in the disgestive tube, an excretion and therefore a release of the virus in the sewerage networks, and in fact in the treatment plants », Explains Vincent Maréchal, professor of virology at Sorbonne University, and co-founder of the Obépine project.

Read also : Coronavirus: traces of SARS-CoV-2 found in non-drinking water in Paris

The project started in Île-de-France at the beginning of March and the observations are very interesting, as shown by Laurent Moulin, in charge of the Research and Development laboratory for Eaux de Paris: “ The reduction in the viral genome concentration in the wastewater is very rapid when the containment is set up. The second interesting information is the resumption in early July of the circulation of the virus linked to the end of confinement. A few weeks before the increase in the incidence rate, an increase in the viral genome concentration was observed in the wastewater. »

The analysis of wastewater could therefore serve as an early indicator of the evolution of the epidemic, and make it possible to guide action. This is already a reality in Marseille. Thus analyzes carried out near retirement homes have made it possible to detect the presence of the virus, and thus to organize screenings in these places.

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