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Campus Clues to COVID-19: Sewage testing key to detecting early infections

Campus Clues to COVID-19: Sewage testing key to detecting early infections
November 17, 2020 GLN Editor

Scientists at dozens of colleges and universities around the country are hoping early detection of COVID-19 infections can come from a not-so-glamorous sampling process.

With collection devices set up in campus sewer systems, researchers are sampling waste from residence halls and other buildings for evidence of the virus. It shows up in human waste before said humans show physical signs of illness or infection.


Here are some additional Great Lakes Now stories about the testing:

Sewage Check: Great Lakes researchers look to wastewater for data on COVID-19

EMU to test campus wastewater for COVID-19


Some schools are sampling in the communities where they are located, including Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

“We would potentially pick up virus in the pump station that services the neighborhood that includes the NMU campus,” said Josh Sharp, associate professor of biology at NMU. “We would then have justification to launch more detailed sampling of buildings on campus.  With a small staff we wanted to have evidence that a labor-intensive testing on campus would be needed first.”

Click on the points on the map to learn more about testing efforts at various colleges or universities around the United States:

Watch Great Lakes Now’s segment “Sewage Surveillance” and learn more about Syracuse University’s effort:


Catch up with COVID-19 news on Great Lakes Now:

Rollbacks, Climate, Justice: Environmental attorney on Biden’s commitments, opportunities and challenges

COVID-19 pushed people outdoors. Michigan’s ski industry is ready for them.

Summertime Spike: Great Lakes parks a source of balm and vexation for many during COVID-19

Drinking Water News Roundup: Illinois COVID-19 shutoff protections, Ontario First Nation evacuation

Another Casualty of COVID: Testing declines for lead poisoning in Michigan


Featured image: Pruthvi Kilaru, program manager in Syracuse University’s department of public health, holds up a wastewater sample taken as part of the university’s efforts to track possible COVID-19 outbreaks. (Image from Syracuse University)

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