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City smart sewer project claims to pinpoint unknown Covid-19 outbreaks

Wastewater company Kando and scientists have announced initial findings of a pilot project in the Israeli city of Ashkelon aimed at detecting virus outbreaks.

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The project identified traces of the virus in the municipal sewerage system
The project identified traces of the virus in the municipal sewerage system

The initial findings of an Israeli pilot project aimed at detecting outbreaks of Covid-19 by identifying traces of the coronavirus in the municipal sewage system have been released.

 

According to smart wastewater big data solutions firm Kando, preliminary results demonstrate the technology’s ability to pinpoint specifically affected neighbourhoods and hotspots. The idea is that it would provide authorities early-warning for outbreaks and data to limit isolation of areas and lockdowns – even to city street level.

 

City of Ashkelon pilot

 

Kando teamed with researchers from several Israeli institutions including Ben Gurion University and the Technion to conduct the month-long pilot in the coastal city of Ashkelon (150,000 residents).

 

Ashkelon was chosen as the pilot site as it was believed to have a low number of cases, aside from the city’s “coronavirus hotels” housing Covid-19 patients. But what researchers discovered was something entirely different: significant remnants of the coronavirus in municipal wastewater, indicating early detection of outbreaks in local neighbourhoods.

 

Kando said the results suggest that tracking coronavirus remnants in the sewer network is a timelier and more efficient gauge of the extent of outbreaks than testing individuals – especially given the asymptomatic nature or delay in symptoms of those suffering from Covid-19.

“This will allow authorities to take actions to contain future outbreaks. This type of interdisciplinary science will continue to help disease containment methods – for coronavirus, and beyond”

Kando, with its partners, took an interdisciplinary approach to develop a method of monitoring cities’ wastewater in the sewer network upstream – from the municipal wastewater towards the city itself, utilising a vast network of sensors in manholes, original algorithms and artificial intelligence.

 

Researchers were able to accurately measure concentrations of the virus remnants and determine the approximate number of those suffering from infection by factoring in the necessary data – including industrial effluent that destroys the virus, and sewage flow, which dilutes the virus’ concentration.

 

They were then able to quantify and delineate this environmental and epidemiological data, allowing them to narrow down measurements to neighbourhoods, and potentially streets.

 

Results of the pilot study offer authorities capabilities for early detection of outbreaks
Results of the pilot study offer authorities capabilities for early detection of outbreaks

The results of the pilot study will offer authorities capabilities for early detection of new outbreaks and can help avoid total lockdowns by pinpointing affected areas. Helping identify hubs of contagion can allow a much more localised response – avoiding the need for more sweeping lockdown measures, claims Kando.

 

“Identifying traces of the coronavirus in city wastewater is extremely challenging due to the various types of substances found in sewage systems, including industrial wastewater, which can dilute or destroy remnants of the virus,” said professor Nadav Davidovitch, director, School of Public Health at Ben Gurion University.

 

“Our unique methodology enables us to detect and trace the presence of the virus and calculate its concentration with these substances factored into the equation, and to integrate epidemiological evidence in order to pinpoint emerging Covid-19 hotspots.”

 

He continued: “This will allow authorities to take actions to contain future outbreaks. This type of interdisciplinary science will continue to help disease containment methods – for coronavirus, and beyond.”

 

Kando uses IoT, original algorithms and artificial intelligence technologies to enable utilities and municipalities to gain insight and control over their wastewater networks by detecting pollution anomalies and blockages in real-time.

 

Founded in 2011, Kando operates in North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and is headquartered in Israel.

 

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