sewage ISTOCK

The Health Ministry is funding a study being conducted at Ben Gurion University on identifying coronavirus outbreaks by examining sewage samples.

In the first phase, tests will be performed in a number of cities, including Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, Netanya, Ramat Hasharon and more.

The research group, led by Prof. Ariel Kushmaro of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in collaboration with Dr. Itai Bar-Or of the Central Laboratory for Viruses at the Health Ministry, has developed a quantitative PCR-based molecular tool for early detection of coronavirus outbreaks based on municipal sewage testing.

The application of this tool will make it possible to track the rate of spread of the virus in cities, neighborhoods and even in certain streets in accordance with the monitoring of the sewage system. This will be possible even before the onset of symptoms of the disease among the residents.

"The results of the study made it possible to identify the virus in the sewer by molecular methods. This method can provide information about the level of coronavirus infection in the population, locate problem areas and provide an initial alert where an outbreak begins," explained Prof. Kushmaro of the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering at Ben Gurion University.

The study is currently in its preliminary 'pilot' phase before a large-scale implementation of the wastewater monitoring project for coronavirus at the national level. It is hoped that the project will provide early warning of an outbreak, the level of morbidity in the various cities and serve as another tool to allow the government to make decisions at the national level on preventive intervention as part of the 'traffic light' program and the easing of lockdown restrictions.

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