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COVID-19 testing in city sewage

Patient testing is limited, we need more ways to track COVID-19.

In collaboration with researchers at MIT, Harvard, and Brigham and Women's Hospital we've launched a pro bono program to map COVID-19 across the U.S.

Call to action

We are soliciting sewage samples from wastewater treatment facilities across the US to test for SARS-CoV-2. This data will be a critical addition to existing patient testing data to measure the scope of the outbreak and guide a community's response.

If interested, please fill out this form.

Before submitting, please help us by answering the following questions:

Do you work at a public health department?

Do you work at a local or state government department?

Do you work at a wastewater facility (public or private)?

Who we are

We are a team of biologists, epidemiologists, data scientists, urban planners, and engineers.

We need to better track the outbreak

New studies show that SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, is shed in stool meaning it’s collecting in our city sewers. We are establishing protocols to test sewage for SARS-CoV-2. If successful, this data will give communities a dynamic map of the virus as it spreads to new places.

Data from sewage will enable communities to:

1.

Measure the scope of the outbreak independent from patient testing or hospital reporting, and include data on asymptomatic individuals,

2.

Provide decision support for officials determining the timing and severity of public health interventions to mitigate the overall spread of the disease,

3.

Better anticipate likely impact on hospital capacity in order to inform hospital readiness and the necessity of public health interventions,

4.

Track the effectiveness of interventions and measure the wind-down period of the outbreak, and

5.

Provide an early warning for reemergence of the coronavirus (if it does indeed have a seasonal cycle).

How it works

Biobot will ship participating facilities a sampling kit and sample collection protocols.

Wastewater facilities will collect 24-hour composite samples, and ship the samples back to Biobot laboratories.

Biobot will process the sewage samples to concentrate and inactivate viruses.

MIT Alm Lab will apply a RT-PCR protocol, adapted from published testing protocols, to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Biobot will communicate the test results back to participating communities.

All teams are doing this work pro bono, asking only that communities cover the costs of the sampling kit and shipping ($120 per sample). We recommend collecting 1-2 samples per week.

Note: If your community is unable to meet these costs, please contact us and we will do what we can to secure funding from partners.

How to receive sampling kits

1.

Identify the wastewater facilities that are relevant to your community. The facilities should have access to a 24-hour composite sampling device.

2.

Order sampling kits, or if you have any pending questions, fill in the above form so our team so our team can get in touch.

3.

Biobot will ship sampling kits and instructions to the wastewater facilities.

Each sampling kit includes supplies for transporting one sewage sample, an ice pack, a return shipping box and label, and instructions.

Sample collection protocols

Project timeline

March 17

Program enrollment opens.

R&D starts at Biobot and MIT to validate collection and testing protocols.

March 23

Sampling kits shipped out to participating wastewater facilities.

R&D starts at Biobot, MIT, and Harvard on how to incorporate sewage test data into forecast models.

Our anticipated turnaround time for results is 3 days after sample collection.

If you represent a government entity or wastewater facility, or if you want to encourage your city to send us samples, we want to talk to you. Fill out this form and someone from our team will be in touch.

Biobot