Connecting Waterpeople

You are here

Wastewater analysis will track spread of coronavirus in schools

  • Wastewater analysis will track spread of coronavirus in schools

About the entity

UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is a world-class research organisation focusing on land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere.

A new £2.4 million study will examine the feasibility of using secondary schools' wastewater in England as a non-intrusive means of coronavirus infection surveillance.

The project, TERM, is being led by Middlesex University and also involves the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), Cranfield University, the University of Bath, Imperial College London and University College London. The research, funded by the NHS Test and Trace Surveillance Testing Team, will provide new evidence that will help public health authorities better manage school-related COVID-19 risks. It will also provide additional insights on transmission of coronavirus among children and from children to adults, and any associations with cases in the wider community.

The researchers will monitor in-school wastewater systems for RNA fragments of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Their study will initially involve 70 schools throughout England and evaluate the costs of undertaking a wastewater surveillance system at a larger scale.

Dr Andrew Singer of UKCEH, which is contributing to sample analysis and data management as part of the project, says: “Near-source detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater is an emerging field that can potentially offer rapid insights into the health of a particular population, in a manner that is inexpensive, anonymous, and non-invasive for the people surveyed. TERM is piloting what might be the future of population health surveillance.”

Near-source detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater can potentially offer rapid insights into the health of a particular population - Dr Andrew Singer

Dr Mariachiara Di Cesare of Middlesex University, principal investigator of the TERM project, adds: “Most of our knowledge on children comes from a period of general schools’ closure and the recent reopening of schools is a big unknown in terms of its impact on the second wave. We are very aware of how uncertain this period is for schools, parents, and the whole of society. We hope to help schools remain open under safe conditions and to prompt a rapid community level response when at risk.”

The researchers are currently working with schools and setting up laboratories, and will also be collaborating with the Joint Biosecurity Centre. The centre, part of the NHS Test and Trace service, provides evidence-based, independent analysis to inform local and national decision-making in response to COVID-19 outbreaks.

John Hatwell, Director of NHS Test and Trace Surveillance Testing, says: “The TERM project is another step forward in our commitment to defeating this invisible killer.

“Not only will the results help us better understand transmission amongst children, but they will enable us to support the safe reopening of schools.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Topics of interest

The data provided will be treated by iAgua Conocimiento, SL for the purpose of sending emails with updated information and occasionally on products and / or services of interest. For this we need you to check the following box to grant your consent. Remember that at any time you can exercise your rights of access, rectification and elimination of this data. You can consult all the additional and detailed information about Data Protection.

Featured news

07/02/2022 · Drought

HydroSOS - Global Hydrological Status and Outlook System