Researchers are sifting through sewage samples for signs of the coronavirus.
They believe the information can help spot trends in the number of cases and give healthcare providers a warning days or weeks before it happens.
“There’s all kinds of information already in sewage samples,” said Dr. Sandra McClellan of the UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences.
She’s leading a team of researchers who are studying sewage samples for traces of the coronavirus.
“We won’t be able to tell how many people are sick in the community, but we will be able to tell if it’s going up or down,” McClellan said.
Scientists said the virus will show up in sewer samples before patients begin to show symptoms.
“This is really, potentially, very important for early warning,” McClellan said. “If we’re starting to see spikes around the city, we may see it first in sewage.”
The researchers are working with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to collect samples of sewage heading into the two MMSD plants from Milwaukee and 27 surrounding communities.
“It’s public health. It’s looking at, trying to be that early indicator of what we need to prepare for in the future,” MMDS Executive Director Kevin Shafer said.
The researchers around the world are working together on the effort.
UWM’s program should start producing data within a couple of weeks.