By Tamsin Brown • 12 February 2022 • 10:53
kjkolb, CC BY-SA 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons
PCR tests are not just performed on people, but also on wastewater – as is the case of Malaga, where PCR tests are used to monitor the behaviour of COVID.
Not only are PCR tests performed on people, but they can also be carried out on wastewater, which is useful for predicting the behaviour of COVID. As the virus is excreted and wastewater contains traces of faecal matter, PCR tests make it possible to anticipate both an increase in the number of cases and the viral load.
The PCR tests are performed under an agreement between the Municipal Water Company of the capital (EMASA) and the University of Malaga (UMA). The results are sent to the Malaga City Council, the Andalucian Regional Government and the State, institutions that make public health decisions based on these reports.
The head of EMASA’s laboratory, María del Carmen Assiego, explained that when people are infected, they do not show symptoms until four or five days later, “but as soon as they are infected, they excrete the virus, even if they are asymptomatic. So the sewage test is an early indicator of the presence of the virus. It is an early warning.”
Not only this, but it also allows us to predict how strong the virus will be, as “the higher the concentration of the virus, the higher the incidence”. EMASA implemented PCR testing on wastewater in April 2020, at the start of the pandemic. This test had never been performed before and has only since been done for COVID. It is carried out at the capital’s two treatment plants, Guadalhorce and Peñón del Cuervo.
The EMASA laboratory takes the samples from the untreated water. The UMA’s Central Research Support Services (SCAI) laboratory then collects the samples, carries out the PCR tests and sends the results to EMASA.
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Originally from London, Tamsin is based in Malaga and is a local reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering Spanish and international news.
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