(Update: Adding case estimates)
As part of nationwide study involving 330 cities across U.S.
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The city of Bend is one of 330 cities across the United States participating in a study with Biobot Analytics, analyzing wastewater for signs of COVID-19.
The city’s Utility Department has been providing one sample of untreated sewage as it goes into the wastewater treatment plan each week, for five weeks.
Biobot Analytics, a biotech startup, launched a COVID-19 sewage testing program, in collaboration with researchers at MIT, Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital.
The city is teaming up with Deschutes County Health Services, which is providing technical leadership in response to COVID-19.
“As an innovative city, we are excited to be part of this research,” City Manager Eric King said in a news release Monday.
“Environmental surveillance is an important public health tool in monitoring transmission and serving as an early warning system,” said Dr. George A. Conway, Deschutes County Health Services director.
The Biobot webpage says new studies show that SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, is shed in the stool of infected patients.
If successful, Biobot says the data could:
- enable communities to measure the scope of an outbreak, including data on asymptomatic people,
- anticipate emerging outbreaks and likely impact on health systems, and
- inform public policy and track the effectiveness of interventions.
“We have only taken four samples, and received the results for three, so it’s a little early to draw any conclusions with the limited data set we have thus far,” said Jeff Buystedt, the city's Utility Department's environmental compliance program manager. “Our and Biobot's goal is to get more data.”
“We are helping provide research and data that can help the entire world in the future,” Buystedt added. “Methods will continue to improve and get more accurate as we have more cumulative data. It’s still early in this effort, and we’re all learning together."
According to the initial data, on April 7, when Deschutes County had 44 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Biodot report estimated 580 cases in the city's sewer/water customer base. Two weeks later, when the county had 64 confirmed cases, it estimated 1,200 cases among the city's sewer/water customers.