Testing poop to predict Miami’s COVID-19 trend? This is the dirtiest process ever


MIAMI – In March, when it became clear that the US was facing an unprecedented epidemic, Miami-Dad County began sampling its sewage as a potential tool to measure the extent of COVID-19 infections. gave. The expectation was that the county’s poop test for coronovirus could serve as an early warning indicator of a dangerous second wave occurring in the fall.

Now, with cases increasing across the country and Florida experiencing a steady increase in levels not seen since August, what is sewage saying?

Short answer: not much, at least not yet. The process started off slow, messy, but they have cleared the data and there is still some promise that it will work.

For months, the county has been paying $ 3,600 per week to see if the test could help estimate the trend of coronovirus infection in sewage populations. Miami-Dade’s water and sewer department sends samples from three of its waste plants to a special laboratory in Boston called Biobot.

The results were to help former Mayor Carlos Jimenez and public health experts save the life by getting ahead of the virus and potentially better preparing hospital infrastructure for serges. Ultimately, everyone hunts, and wastewater represents all individuals in a community, whether they have COVID-19 symptoms and access to the test or not.

Because the coronavirus shows up exactly one or two days after infection in human waste, the wastewater emerged as another COVID-19 gauge for the COVID-19 data. Used in conjunction with other data, it can help lead the COVID curve.

While cities such as Paris and Boston have integrated wastewater test results into their strategies to fight COVID-19, WASD says that the turnaround time on the test results is not yet so fast that it is one in Miami-Dad Create planning tools.

“We need to trust the data more. At this point the results are replicating the test data coming to us from the state, ”said WASD Director Kevin Lingsky.

Miami-Dade Water and Sewer takes samples weekly from its wastewater treatment plant in Virginia, as part of a COVID-19 testing program.

Lynskey said that Biobot data is still mostly a look at the COVID curve, rather than a forward-looking signal for the trend. For example, a recent biobot analysis of the sewage of the Dad shows that the number estimation began around mid-October, but no data are yet available after October 27 due to sampling delays by the county.

The problem has come at both ends of the process – the collection of samples from the county’s three major sewage plants and its analysis by biobot.

When sampling began in March, the results were unreliable, with no sense of spikes and drops when analyzed against clinical and trial data from COVID-19 patients tracked by the Florida Department of Health, Lynskey said. The biobot acknowledged that its methods needed improvement after starting the testing program in March.

By August, Biobot’s algorithm was estimating the prevalence of the virus, or how widespread the disease was in the population. Because the lab was still fine-tuning its technology, the results were taking two weeks to return, and the testing program was seen as progressing.

Then in August, Biobot revised its model. It added more information to its analysis, including new research into how the virus behaves in wastewater, and began to produce results that reflected the occurrence of new cases, proportionate to cases in a certain population. Can instead indicate trends. moment. And the company also began to process data faster, turning tests within a few days.

“We have been working with hundreds of communities for many months, so we are in a very different place today in terms of our understanding of laboratory methods, the data analysis pipeline of viruses is purely due to the data set that we collected. Newza Geely, president and co-founder of Biobot. “Our sensitivity levels have changed and improved.”

In March and April, Biobot would provide data to communities two weeks after sampling, an outcome that was not actionable at all, she said. Now biobots can test samples in one day and send results back the next day.

So why is Miami-Dad not taking advantage of this rapid change? The past three weeks have been delayed with their own sample, so no tests were conducted after October 27 via biobot or data. WASD stated that there was a delay in getting the kit from Biobot and that it is working on getting the test program back on track.

In Boston, meanwhile, the water and sewer company is making the data available and encouraging authorities and the public to use it, among other information, to make decisions about the epidemic.

In July, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority began posting the results of the COVID test at its Deer Island treatment plant on its website. According to MWRA, the results are shared with employees of the Department of Public Health, Department of Environmental Protection, Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Executive Office for Energy and Environmental Affairs.

“It is important to note that this is a developed science pilot,” the website said. “The results of this study will be used by public health officials as an additional tool for the Commonwealth to assess how epidemics are trending in Massachusetts, as well as data from clinical trials, hospitals, etc. Too.”

Some wastewater sampling programs are also being implemented by other states. Since July, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Sanitation in partnership with the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and the State Department of Natural Resources has been testing samples from wastewater treatment plants once a week in about 20 counties with 75% of the population. Universities such as Yale and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are also testing their faeces to track the COVID epidemic in their communities. The University of Miami is also launching its own programs, sampling sewage from various collection points on its campuses.

It is unclear whether Florida is working on a state-funded program because neither the Department of Health nor the government. Ron DeSantis’ office requested for comment.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services announced last month that it was launching a national wastewater monitoring system to help public health officials better understand the extent of COVID-19 Could help. Transition in communities. “

The CDC is currently developing a portal for state, tribal, local and regional health departments, which presents waste database data to be used for public health action into a national database.

The CDC stated that the data from waste testing are not meant to replace existing COVID-19 monitoring systems, but to supplement by providing data for communities where periodic COVID-19 clinical trials are underutilized or unavailable Huh.

Meanwhile, Biobot is using Poop data from cities to conduct all types of epidemiological studies. For example, the laboratory found that people with COVID exert a large viral load in their prey within the first few days of infection. So if the sewage samples show a significant increase in the viral load, it means that there may be a spike in the number of cases around a week.

Statistically, when people are contaminated with the virus, they show symptoms four or five days earlier. They probably want to test, and if the system is not overwhelmed, the test results will probably be available in two or three days. So the test result will prevent the onset of infection for about a week or longer.

If the poop test is performed efficiently, it can give public health officials some advance warning about trends.

Lynskey said the county may decide to conduct more targeted sewage testing to identify hot spots and get a more granular view of infection trends.

“We can test individual grid points in our system. We can take more local samples instead of sampling at the treatment plant. “We can do them with more concentrated basins and start assuming whether the transition is more problematic.”

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(c) 2020 Miami Herald

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