An illustration of coronavirus
An illustration of coronavirus

The presence of coronavirus has been detected in sewage water in the country. A team of researchers from the Noakhali Science and Technology University and North South University found the presence of coronavirus while testing sewage water.

This the first such research in the country, said professor Nazrul Islam, former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) and member of the government’s national technical advisory committee for coronavirus.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Thursday, he said that such environment-related tests were very important to determine the presence of COVID-19 in any area. If the presence of coronavirus in waste can be detected in this manner, then in future steps can be taken to reduce the risk of the virus’ transmission.

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In order to determine the presence of novel coronavirus in sewage water, the research team tested water samples 16 times between 10 July and 29 August. Water was collected from the drains, sewerage system and latrines at the Shaheed Bhulu Stadium’s COVID-19 isolation centre in Noakhali.

The research has been led by professor Firoz Ahmed of Noakhali Science and Technology University’s microbiology department. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, “We tested water samples 16 times and detected the presence of coronavirus every time.”

Public health experts have said there are many asymptomatic persons with coronavirus all over the country

The researchers applied the method of coronavirus testing used to detect the virus in the human body.

Firoz Ahmed said, the sample water is first sieved through a centrifuge machine and the dirt settles at the bottom. The water is separated and sieved again. The virus goes to the bottom. The researchers detected coronavirus in these dregs through the RT-PCR method.

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In a research conducted by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), it was seen that nine per cent of the people in the capital’s two city corporation areas had contracted coronavirus. Public health experts have said there are many asymptomatic persons with coronavirus all over the country.

IEDCR advisor Mushtaq Hossain has said that testing sewage water for coronavirus presence is significant in determining the presence of asymptomatic people in an area.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, this public health expert said, “If it is not possible to determine the presence of coronavirus in any area through the normal tests, testing sewage water can prove the presence of the virus. We consider Noakhali to be a large infected area. These tests have confirmed this.”

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Tests of sewage water for coronavirus have been carried out in Italy, Spain and France. In a report appearing in a blog of Colombia University on Wednesday, it was said that coronavirus tests were being carried out in residential halls of the university. Head of the university’s public health department, Wafaa El-Sadr, said that testing sewage water is easy, but sophisticated. It can provide an early warning signal for the presence of COVID-19 cases, leading to the mobilisation of a rapid response.

Involved in the testing of sewage water around Noakhali’s Bhulu stadium, professor Zakaria of North South University’s environmental science and management department, said that such tests carried in other countries of the world have collected water samples from various sewerage areas of the cities. The research in Noakhali has specifically been near the COVID-19 isolation centre. It is specialised in that sense.

* The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir