Waste water analysis shows coronavirus is spreading across Estonia

This week’s results of the waste water analysis led by the University of Tartu confirm that coronavirus is increasingly spreading throughout Estonia. The amount of virus is moderate to large in the majority of larger sampling sites.

After a one-month break, researchers of the University of Tartu have returned to the weekly waste water analyses. While at the end of June, the concentration of coronavirus in waste water had declined to low or moderate almost everywhere, it has notably increased by now, said the lead researcher of the study Tanel Tenson, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu. The rise has not been dramatic, though. “When comparing this week’s results with the end of June, it is evident that the outbreaks are no longer limited to particular places, but the virus is evenly spreading throughout Estonia,” said Tenson.

How and where are the samples collected?

Waste water samples are collected at the beginning of every week in all county centres, cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and, if necessary, in smaller settlements. This week’s samples were taken only from larger cities and reflect the situation of wastewater passing through the treatment plant over 24 hours, giving a reliable overview of the infection level in the city. 

The study is a tool helping the Health Board to monitor changes in the outbreak dynamics and discover hidden outbreaks. It gives early information for estimating the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected. The Health Board is regularly informed of the results.

In collecting the samples, the University of Tartu cooperates with the Estonian Environmental Research Centre and water companies operating the waste water treatment plants of Estonian cities. The samples are analysed at the laboratories of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

For more information about the previous results of the study, see the home page of the study “Detecting coronavirus in waste water”.
Further information: Tanel Tenson, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu, tanel.tenson@ut.ee 5344 5202