A standard approach to tracking Covid-19 infections through wastewater on the whole island of Ireland
People infected with the Covid-19 virus shed the virus in their faeces, and the virus can be detected in sewage entering wastewater treatment plants. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has previously funded research to develop technology to monitor the virus in sewage treatment plants in Dublin. Now SFI and the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) will support a project to use the technology to detect the Covid-19 virus in sewage in Northern Ireland. The virus will be analysed within sewerage networks in both the Republic and in Northern Ireland. This will allow the researchers to assess and report the real infection rate for the island of Ireland and to identify hotspots where an outbreak is happening.
What is the issue?
A previous study led by University College Dublin has shown that measuring the Covid-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, in wastewater in the Republic of Ireland can identify whether the virus is present and if the infection levels are going up or down. However, we do not know how many people in that area are infected.
What will the research project do?
The researchers at UCD will transfer the technology to Northern Ireland so that data on the amount of virus in sewage will be available there as well. This data, together with data from about known cases of Covid-19 and statistical models to assess the real infection rate on the island of Ireland and identify emerging areas or hotspots of infection.
What will the impact be?
By measuring SARS-CoV-2 concentrations in the sewage, the project will tell us what the real SARS-CoV-2 infection rate is on the island of Ireland and enable early intervention if a local outbreak is occurring.
Professor of Microbiology Wim Meijer said: “Wastewater surveillance is a robust and cost-effective tool to monitor the Covid-19 virus in communities in Ireland.”
Lead Applicant Professor Wim Meijer
Co-Applicant Professor John McGrath, QUB
Dr. Nicola Fletcher, UCD
Prof. John O'Sullivan, UCD
Prof. Thomas Brendan Murphy, UCD
Prof. Laurence Gill, Trinity College Dublin
Dr. Connor Bamford, Queen's University Belfast
Prof. Jennifer McKinley, Queen's University Belfast
Dr. Derek Fairley, HSC - Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Mr. Paul Buggy, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council
Mr. Kevin Callanan, Dublin City Council
Mr. Padraig Doyle, Dublin City Council
Dr. Laura Sala-Comorera, UCD
Dr. Liam Reynolds, UCD
Ms. Niamh Martin, UCD
Prof. Stuart Elborn, Queen's University Belfast
Prof. Michael Tunney,Queen's University Belfast
Dr. Deirdre Gilpin, Queen's University Belfast
Dr. Stephanie Millar, Northern Ireland Environment