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Fourteen Israeli cities take part in project to monitor sewage for Covid-19 outbreaks

The anticipation is that BGU scientists and collaborators might eventually be able to predict outbreaks based on the neighbourhood or even at street level.

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The project follows an initial pilot in Ashkelon. Photo courtesy: Kando
The project follows an initial pilot in Ashkelon. Photo courtesy: Kando

The Israeli Ministry of Health has signed an agreement with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) to extend a monitoring programme to identify Covid-19 in sewage samples from 14 new cities around the country.

 

Monitoring will serve as an early warning system of outbreaks. It is part of a larger pilot study being conducted and funded by the Ministry of Health before implementing the tracking methodology countrywide.

 

Predict outbreaks

 

The anticipation is that BGU scientists and collaborators might eventually be able to predict outbreaks based on the neighbourhood or even at street level.

 

A study on the initial pilot six months ago to develop the new methodology that traces the Sars-CoV-2 virus through the sewage and wastewater systems in Israel has been published on the health service website MedRxiv.

“Monitoring sewage will help mitigate expansion of Covid-19 cases earlier, especially in areas where testing isn’t being maximised”

Following the initial pilot in Ashkelon, the new agreement will include the following cities: Jerusalem, Beer-Sheva, Rahat, Lehavim, Beit Shemesh, Pardesia, Binyamina, Kfar Saba, Netanya, Tira, Elad, Nes Tziona, Ramat Yishai, and Ramat Hasharon.

 

“We can identify Sars-CoV-2 in the sewage and wastewater, and hopefully prevent outbreaks,” said Professor Ariel Kushmaro principal investigator BGU, and John A Ungar chair in biotechnology, of the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering.

 

“If we are monitoring a city with only a small number of known Covid-19 cases, and traces show up in the sewage, you can see something is wrong and more testing can be done.”

 

Other team members in the programme include: Dr Yakir Berchenko of BGU’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management; Marylou Shengen and Karin Yaniv from Kushmaro’s Environmental Biotechnology Lab; Dr Itay Bar-Or, a virologist from Sheba Medical Centre; Professor. Eran Friedler from the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology; and the company Kando, a wastewater management technology company located in Israel and Colorado.

 

“Monitoring sewage will help mitigate expansion of Covid-19 cases earlier, especially in areas where testing isn’t being maximised,” added Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

 

“We hope that this project will be successful in Israel and that this technology is brought to the US.”

 

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