Covid-19: Researchers to check sewage in Hyderabad for viruses

CCMB, IICT and NEERI to test sewage water from STPs on weekly basis to help Hyderabad combat Omicron threat

Published: 08th December 2021 08:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th December 2021 08:03 AM   |  A+A-

COvid, PPE

Image used for representational purpose. (File Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: To help the city of Hyderabad prepare for an impending third wave on a week-on-week basis, CCMB, IICT and NEERI are planning to intensify surveillance for the SARS COV2 by conducting tests on sewage water on a weekly and twice a week basis.

Well placed sources said that tests will be conducted weekly to twice a week across 20-23 Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) and major nalas in Hyderabad. “The process has started and within a month, we will be able to share the data on a weekly basis for surveillance purposes,” informed a senior official from NEERI. 

The researchers are confident of tracing variants as well. “We are hoping to sequence the samples as some amount of degenerated RNA and RNA signature will also be found and the variant could be determined using that,” added a researcher from CCMB.

Checking for viruses in sewage water is a universally established protocol with European Union testing on a 15-day cycle and alerting health officials if anything unusual is observed. “We are trying to create something similar here as it gives a week’s time for public health measures to be put in place. This is because the virus appears in feces on day one while the individual may be asymptomatic,” explained Dr S Venkata Mohan, Senior Principal Scientist, IICT who had previously worked on similar surveillance during the first and second waves.

Spike in viral load  ahead of 2nd wave

Dr Mohan explained that like in the second wave, when a sudden spike in viral load was noticed in February and March, they could alert officials now in case high viral load is noticed. “In August this year, the viral load had fallen considerably and so surveillance was halted. But now with increasing cases and the threat of Omicron, we have resumed the process. By the first week of January, we will know the patterns,” added Dr Mohan.

Sewage surveillance would also allow researchers is to see the variant responsible for the viral load -- as currently is the case with Delta and Omicron. Researchers would be able to see if ever Omicron takes over Delta and what the situation on ground would be like. “In principle, trends seen in the sewage lines predate clinical trends by a week. Over the course of time, one can also back calculate the viral load across waves,”  said a CCMB official. 

On point

  • nIICT research to focus on Nacharam, Tarnaka and HMT Nagar drains across multiple points, CCMB and NEERI to focus on nearly 22 other STPs
  • nSamples to be collected for three days continuously to get comprehensive idea
  • nThe entire nala in these areas will be split into zones and sample will be collected at outlet of drains before they enter STP etc 
  • nIf viral content noticed, then RNA to be sequenced

203 fresh cases, one death recorded in TS

Telangana reported 203 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, with 40,730 tests conducted. The State also saw 160 recoveries, taking the number of active cases to 3,852. One more patient succumbed to the virus, taking the toll to 4001.Meanwhile, none of the 105 individuals tested for Covid-19 at the RGIA were found to be infected. 


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