Programme to test wastewater for Covid developed by Bangor University to be rolled out cross Wales
A programme developed by Bangor University to test wastewater for Covid-19 has been expanded to cover all Welsh health boards and local authorities, the Welsh Government has said.
The programme provides vital data on the prevalence of coronavirus in the community and was key to the early detection of the Omicron wave across Wales.
The process of identifying coronavirus in wastewater was initially developed by scientists at Bangor who have been working in partnership with the Welsh Government, Cardiff University, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and Hafren Dyfrdwy.
The initial concept and processes are now used in work being undertaken across the UK, and 48 sites in Wales now have automated monitoring equipment installed to provide wastewater samples which scientists can test to give insights into the virus.
Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan said: “The wastewater data has helped us to understand how the pandemic has changed and allowed us to follow the Omicron wave through our communities.
“With the help of the scientists and water companies in Wales, we have increased the monitoring sites from 19 to 48 and introduced automatic sampling equipment providing even more detailed insights into wastewater testing compared with the methods we originally adopted.”
Professor David Jones from Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences, who co-leads the development of the testing technology, said: “COVID-19 has been a huge learning curve for virology, and our wastewater testing has been able to identify new variants of the virus in almost real-time, so we welcome its expansion across Wales.
“We know that the faster the data can be produced, the better informed public health officials can be in making important decisions about the measures needed.”
Chief Scientific Adviser for Health Rob Orford said: “Wastewater monitoring has the potential to be representative of the true levels of COVID-19 in our communities, as it is less affected by changes to community testing policy and whether or not people get tested.
“We are keen to continue to explore how wastewater can play an important part of our future testing strategy as we begin to move from pandemic to endemic. Wastewater also has some exciting potential beyond COVID-19 and could be used to monitor the levels of many other viruses like influenza and anti-microbial resistance.”
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It is always pleasurable to acknowledge research in Wales. However, it is also fair to refer to the fact that it was not at Bangor but at the University of Yale that engineers and epidemiologists and engineers published their findings on the 12th June 2020 into the way that the analysis if waste water could help identify the incidence of the disease. The hypothesis is that if this method had been sued earlier, many lives could have been saved through imposing an earlier lockdown.