While much of the COVID-19 response to date has been focused on human-to-human transmission of the virus, largely unaddressed to date are the ongoing risks of environmental transmission and the role of environmental monitoring to understand the health of both facilities and people.
What is environmental monitoring?
Many will be familiar now with the human testing protocol employed by most countries around the world. Environmental monitoring leverages the same qPCR technology to understand the presence of SARS-CoV-2– the virus that causes COVID-19 – on surfaces, in air, water and wastewater.
How can environmental monitoring be used?
Identification of early warning signs
Discovery of the SARS-Cov-2 virus in an environment not only means that the risk of transmission is present but also that it was likely brought into that location by a person. With physical symptoms not always present in people with COVID-19, environmental monitoring can be used to understand the risk in your facility and whether to take crucial actions including human testing and prompt contact tracing to reduce risk.
Verification of disinfection protocols
While person-to-person transmission is the primary method for transmission, there is also evidence of environment-to-person transmission, mostly from infected persons touching surfaces and objects which are then touched by other unsuspecting persons. This type of transmission can be greatly reduced by proper cleaning and sanitization of surfaces and objects that people regularly contact. Consistent environmental testing can verify if the environment has been effectively returned to a safe-state or if the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still present and further cleaning is required.
Insight into community health
SARS-CoV-2 has even been detected in municipal wastewater plants in the Netherlands by a team of researchers. While it may be difficult or unfeasible to test all citizens in a given population, the measurement of their cumulative waste may serve as an early warning system in the case of reemergence of the virus and is much easier than testing each individual. In one instance this research was even able to identify the presence of viral RNA in wastewater before the confirmation of the first case by health authorities. As the demand for tests is forecasted to increase and may exceed supply, these methods of “group testing” will allow health authorities to pinpoint which communities are affected the most and pursue further targeted testing.
LuminUltra has a range of reliable, fast, and sensitive testing solutions to identify the presence of COVID-19 on surfaces, in wastewater, and in human carriers.