London

Researchers looking for signs of COVID-19 in Londoners' poop

The city shared wastewater samples with a team of researchers at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research.

Wastewater could tell us if COVID-19 cases in the city are rising

The city has shared samples from its Greenway Wastewater Treatment Plant with a team at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

Your poop might be under a microscope, because researchers are taking a look at London's wastewater for signs of COVID-19.

The city has shared samples from its Greenway Wastewater Treatment Plant with a team at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor. 

The testing could provide an early indicator if COVID-19 cases are rising, the city said in a media release, but samples taken between July 16 and July 19 "...yielded no evidence of the genetic signal of the COVID-19 virus." 

"The science to monitor wastewater for COVID-19 is still in its infancy and these negative samples do not indicate that the virus is no longer in the community," said the statement. 

Gary Burrows, a supervisor of wastewater treatment operations for the city, said researchers are tracking the virus's genetic signal, not the virus itself. He also said the samples are being collected from what flows into the plant, not from outside people's homes and neighbourhoods. 

"What we can do though, is if there's any hot spots, we can possibly isolate an area of the city."

Scott Mathers, the director of water and wastewater in London, said the results so far are "encouraging" and it will help give the health unit and local hospitals more information to help fight the virus.

The samples were analyzed by a team led by R. Michael McKay, executive director and professor at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research. 

The research is part of London's and the Middlesex-London Health Unit's participation in the Canadian Coalition on Wastewater-Related COVID-19 Research.

The pilot project continues this week.

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