Events & News

$1,7 million for research into COVID-19 in wastewater

15 January 2021

Did you know that the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be detected at the regional, city, neighbourhood or even retirement home level with a single screening test?

The Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ) just announced an investment of $1 million in the CentrEau-COVID: Dépistage de la COVID-19 dans les eaux usées comme outil de vigie et de gestion project to screen for COVID-19 in wastewater led by researchers  Dominic Frigon (McGill) and Peter Vanrolleghem (Université Laval). The other partners in the $1.7M project are the Trottier Family Foundation, Molson Foundation and National Centre in Environmental Technology and Electrochemistry (CNETE).   

At CentrEau, our researchers have been working since March to set up a wastewater monitoring and early warning system for COVID-19. Indeed, wastewater analysis can detect from 1 to 10 infected people (including asymptomatic cases) per 100,000 people in a population's wastewater - a very interesting method since it costs about 1% of the cost of individual tests. In addition, because the stool contains the virus before the person becomes ill, this approach allows the detection of outbreaks 2 to 5 days before the rate of positive clinical test results increases. Of course, this type of testing is a complement to individual testing since it allows for the geolocation of outbreaks and the concentration of screening efforts. This detection system also makes it possible to quickly see if new measures (mask, containment, curfew) are effective. It also makes it possible to detect the presence of new variants of the virus on the territory. The project covers three large centers as well as two regions and daily samples will make it possible within a few weeks to follow the evolution, downward or upward, of the virus.

The six-month research initiative chiefly aims to test wastewater in major urban centres and smaller municipalities across Québec to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is responsible for COVID-19. Making wastewater monitoring part of the crisis management approach enables early geolocation-based virus detection to help break the virus transmission chain and avoid outbreaks. The study areas are Montréal, Québec and Laval, as well as Bas-Saint-Laurent and Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec.

Professors members Dominic Frigon, Sarah Dorner and Peter Vanrolleghem are in the media this week to talk about the detection of COVID-19 thanks to wastewater and the advances that are being made on this subject in Quebec. 

Read the FRQ press release »

Watch the sinterview on GlobalNews »

Read the interview in Le Soleil » [in French]

Listen to the interview on Radio-Canada » [in French]

Elsewhere in the World

The analysis of wastewater of the city of Athens (Greece) made it possible to determine the level of viral load of COVID-19 within the country, as well as the potential number of people infected by the virus. The implementation of the second lockdown in November was accompanied by a high level of viral load in wastewater, indicating the relevance of wastewater analysis in response to the pandemic. For more information, visit the Reuters website »

New York City's sewers are at the heart of the monitoring of the spread of COVID-19 in the city. Indeed, researchers are constantly analyzing the wastewater for signs of outbreaks. However, in New York City, 12,000 kilometers of pipes transport between 5 and 11 billion liters of wastewater per day, depending on the intensity of rainfall, making it impossible to pinpoint the precise location of clusters. To learn more, visit the New York Times website »