Waste water monitoring results show no slowdown in the spread of coronavirus yet

The latest results of the waste water study led by the University of Tartu still show high virus concentration in samples collected everywhere in Estonia. According to researchers, there are no signs of stabilisation yet.

This time, the map of the study includes no results for Paide, where this week’s samples did not give a reliable picture of the situation. According to Veljo Kisand, Associate Professor of Molecular Ecology at the University of Tartu, the sample from Paide was probably affected by the huge amount of snowmelt that had overly diluted the human waste water. “The E. coli content in the sample was also 100–1000 times lower than usual. Normally, large quantities of the bacteria reach the sewage from the human digestive tract. This is why the Paide sample cannot be regarded a reliable reflection of the actual coronavirus concentration,” Kisand explained.

Slowing down the rate of infection is in the hands of each one of us

According to the lead researcher of the waste water study, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson, the results have shown predominantly high virus concentration in samples collected from nearly all places in Estonia from the beginning of the year already. In some regions, the concentration of the virus is actually very high, and thus it is not yet possible to talk of any stabilisation in the situation.

“As researchers, we can monitor the situation and predict infection trends every week or two, but it is in the hands of each individual to slow down the spread of the virus. Let us avoid contacts, stay home if possible, and wear a mask in public places – this is the only way to curb the spread of the virus as soon as possible,” Tenson pointed out.

Waste water samples are collected at the beginning of every week in all Estonian county centres and cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants. The study is a tool supporting the Health Board by providing early information to assess the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected. The monitoring helps to find hidden outbreaks and observe changes in the dynamics of outbreaks. The Health Board is regularly informed of the results.

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

For more information and the interactive map with 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, University of Tartu, 5344 5202, tanel.tenson@ut.ee