Kentucky researchers: Wastewater tests show COVID-19 spikes days before traditional testing

Published 8:58 am Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Samples taken from a Kentucky wastewater plant have detected surges of COVID-19 days before spikes of the virus showed up in tests.

A partnership between public health officials and university researchers, the project is a collaboration between the Graves County Health Department, Mayfield Electric and Water Systems, Murray State University, the University of Louisville Co-Immunity Project, and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

Samples are removed from Mayfield’s wastewater treatment plant before undergoing testing in Murray State labs.

MSU researchers told western Kentucky public radio the testing has revealed potential virus hotspots in the county ahead of the traditional clinical and testing models.

The virus from infected persons regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms has been detected in the wastewater, the researchers said, demonstrating that the wastewater analysis is effective even if COVID-positive individuals are asymptomatic.

MSU officials said wastewater testing can serve as an early warning system for virus outbreaks, allowing public health officials to respond to specific hotspots before they show up in clinical tests.