Infectious disease epidemiologists from the Aga Khan University, the National Institute of Health, Islamabad, and the World Health Organization’s Pakistan Office are collaborating with Karachi’s District Health Office, East to detect new coronavirus cases in the metropolitan city using a sewage surveillance system.
A pilot project is being launched under which wastewater samples will be regularly tested for the presence of the coronavirus and its concentration.
The epidemiologists in Pakistan will set up an extensive sewage surveillance system on the pattern used by health authorities in several countries including the US, Canada, Australia, and several European nations. These systems have helped in the detection of coronavirus almost seven to ten days before cases began to increase, allowing the governments and health authorities to take prompt action.
The advantage of using sewage surveillance systems is that the presence of viruses can be identified in sewage before a person starts showing symptoms.
Dr. Imran Nisar, assistant professor at the AKU and principal investigator of the study, said, “Insights from sewage surveillance can help us get ahead of the virus and take more effective measures to curb new cases. No one knows when this pandemic will end, but new tools such as wastewater analysis can potentially make mitigation measures more effective”.