Cranfield University has joined a new project looking for traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the wastewater of schools in the hope it might provide a useful ‘early warning’ system of infection levels.
The university joins Middlesex University, which is leading the study, in collaboration with Test and Trace’s Joint Biosecurity Centre, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, University of Bath, Imperial College London and University College London. The London Assembly Health Committee, Brent Council, and The London Drainage Engineers Group are members of the stakeholder group.
The research will provide new evidence on the safety of schools reopening and additional insights on transmission of coronavirus from children-to-children and children-to-adults. The £2.4million project is funded by the NHS Test and Trace Surveillance Testing Team.
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The objectives of the TERM research will include:
Collate new evidence on the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19 in schools and how this associates with local cases
Determine whether a wastewater surveillance system can work at school level
Evaluate the costs of undertaking a wastewater surveillance system at a large scale
Explore the feasibility of implementing an early-warning system based on wastewater surveillance data at a community level
Dr Francis Hassard, lecturer in public health microbiology, Cranfield University, said: “We know the key to tackling Covid-19, in advance of effective pharmaceutical intervention, is effective test, trace and isolation of infective individuals.
"The tracking of school wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 allows us to pinpoint potential outbreaks in advance and put in place effective public health interventions to prevent spread.”
Researchers are currently working with schools and setting up laboratories with the aim of monitoring 70 schools throughout England.