Victoria’s Department of Health, Melbourne Water, Water Research Australia and other industry partners have partnered with Monash University to track traces of COVID-19 in wastewater with “torpedo” passive samplers.
Detecting COVID-19 earlier in wastewater may help prevent further waves and reduce the need for lockdowns in the future, according to Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering associate professor David McCarthy.
“The ‘torpedo’ has revolutionised the way we can monitor SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, and these devices are now being used all over Victoria for early detection of COVID-19 to contain outbreaks and prevent further lockdowns,” McCarthy said.
“In the recent outbreak (June 2021), our devices were able to detect the presence of the original infection in the Epping sewer shed days prior to a reported clinical case, allowing our chief health officer to sound the alert and call for those with symptoms to get tested.”
Then followed other methods of early detection using the devices, allowing the Department of Health to target messaging and encourage people in the area to get tested and isolate.
“Victorian decision makers were indeed drawing on the data made possible by our sampling innovation, to inform key decisions affecting all Victorians,” McCarthy said.
“Direct social, health and economic impact does not get more real and substantial than major city COVID lockdowns; the early detection that our sensitive wastewater sampling devices permit has been coined a ‘game changer’ by our Department of Health partners.”
Monash University’s wastewater samples are now being utilised worldwide to determine the location of COVID-19.
“The ‘torpedo’s’ impact is well beyond Victoria with a national and global reach, and it is now actively used in all states and territories of Australia and has been used in the following countries: New Zealand, Indonesia, China, South Africa, five states across the USA, five provinces and territories in Canada, The Netherlands, Italy, UK, France, Luxemburg, Spain and the list is growing,” he said.