UC Berkeley scientists examine human waste in sewers for signs of coronavirus hotspots: report

What’s the latest poop on coronavirus outbreaks? Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley may be able to tell you.

The scientists have been gathering samples of human waste from sewers in the San Francisco Bay Area to determine “hotspot” areas where the coronavirus is most prevalent, according to a report.

Evidence of coronavirus infection is often present in waste samples, the scientists told FOX 2 of the Bay Area – and they decided that accessing samples from sewers would be more efficient than going door to door to request samples from residents.

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“Wastewater naturally pools the waste from hundreds to even millions of people in a single sample,’ team leader Kara Nelson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, told the station.

“So if you can collect a representative sample of wastewater and analyze it, you can gain a tremendous amount of information that you likely couldn’t gain through testing people individually,” she added.

Wastewater agencies from three Bay Area counties are assisting in the project, with a fourth county expected to join soon, the report said.

The samples are collected at “sewer sheds,” where waste from multiple sewer lines converge into a single pipe or treatment station. The samples can include waste from several thousand to several hundred thousand residents, the scientists told FOX 2.

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Then DNA in the samples is examined to determine the presence of coronavirus, with UC Berkeley’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology assisting in the process.

The UC Berkeley team hopes to share its methods and information with other parts of the U.S. to help them study the rate of infection in those areas, Nelson told FOX 2.