If the world knew that coronavirus would break out and infect millions of people just two weeks before it infected the first patient, it would be in a better place. Consequently, countries would be better prepared to battle with the pandemic.
On Monday, Israel took another step in the direction of being prepared. The country decided that it needs an early warning system and hopes to make it a reality. The Health Ministry signed an agreement with Ben-Gurion University, located in the Negev, so that the coronavirus could be monitored and detected. In order to do this, sewage samples will be collected from 14 communities all over Israel.
Prof. Ariel Kushmaro, principal investigator of the Department of Biotechnology Engineering, announced to the public that once the virus completely disappears or has low connectivity, people can be given a warning of the virus two weeks before a potential outbreak. He stated that wastewater will reflect the increase of the virus thus, allowing authorities to warn the citizens.
The pilot study is going to be funded by the Health Ministry itself and is expected to last a couple of months. This one will follow an initial pilot program that was set up in May in Ashkelon. It was able to predict an outbreak successfully just several weeks before.
The 14 communities to be made a part of this study are Beit Shemesh, Beersheba, Elad, Binyamina, Tira, Jerusalem, Lehavim, Ramat Yishai, Kfar Saba, Ness Ziona, Pardesiyan, Netanya, Rahat, and Ramat Hasharon.
The professor believes that proof of the decline in the number of cases can be found in the sewers. He stated that currently the virus concentration in the sewage system is being monitored due to the lockdown.
Kushmaro went on to say that when the virus concentration in the population was high, so was the concentration in the sewers. However, lockdown brought about a lower concentration is the sewage system.
Researchers from Ben-Gurion University have joined forces with two tech companies from Israel. NU Filtration is working on developing a filtration device that will detect and monitor the presence of coronavirus in the wastewater. On the other hand, Kando will install smart samples and a kit of sensors in the manholes to identify the locations with the greatest concentration of the virus.
The CEO of NUFiltration, Mino Negrin, spoke to the media as well. He stated that his company has patented the water filtration technology, which will be used in the process of sterilization. He also explained that a dialysis device will be used in the filtration of water as it stimulates kidneys in the body.
Negrin further explained that genetic material can easily be detected from the wastewater by filtering it. The filter makes sure to retain the genetic material and uses it to extract at very high concentrations. Once this is done, the only thing leftover inside is the virus itself.
He also approached Kushmaro himself to ask if his company, NUFiltration, could perform a couple of tests while he was present.