Concentration of coronavirus in wastewater reaches record levels

SuSanA Secretariat, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The concentration of coronavirus found in wastewater has reached record levels, with more than a million genetic copies of the virus detected.

This December, concentrations of the COVID-19 virus found in wastewater have reached the highest levels ever recorded to date. The data was obtained as part of a project organised by the Spanish government which analyses the wastewater treatment plants representing 25% of the documented population in Spain.

The announcement was made on Thursday, December 23, by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (Miteco), which published the results of the analysis based on samples taken between December 12 – 18. The results reflect the rapid expansion of the omicron variant in Spain.

The project VATar-COVID-19, which began to measure the presence of coronavirus in wastewater in June 2020, recorded more than a million genetic copies of the virus this month, a figure never before detected since the initiative began.

The laboratories collaborating in the project have designed a PCR test “similar to the one used in clinics”, which makes it possible to estimate the relative proportion of a variant in relation to the total number of genomes present in the sample of wastewater, explained Miteco in a statement.

Miteco also stated that “after much hard work from the laboratories involved in the project”, they managed to obtain the specific omicron mutation “in record time”, which will “soon” allow its identification and an estimation of its proportion in the samples.

The discovery will be highly significant for estimating the incidence of the virus in the population, as it could indicate COVID-19 cases in asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people, and as a large percentage of the Spanish population is vaccinated, “many of those who could be infected may not show symptoms,” stated Miteco.

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Written by

Tamsin Brown

Originally from London, Tamsin is based in Malaga and is a local reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering Spanish and international news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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