“I would recommend Biobot Analytics for any municipality that has a wastewater system.”— Mayor Eric Papenfuse, City of Harrisburg
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Pennsylvania, the state capital normally swelled with commuters during the day. Once COVID-19 hit and remote work took over, the local economy was devastated due to the loss of its usual customer base.
Mayor Eric Papenfuse knew that he had to respond to the dual health and economic crises in a comprehensive and informed way. …
We know that COVID-19 testing still matters. But which is better: Wastewater-based or clinical COVID-19 test data? The answer is easy — Both.
To understand why, it’s important to first understand differences in how samples are collected for each type of test.
Wastewater testing collects information from groups of people. Virus is shed in the stool of infected individuals among thousands of other stool samples that are flushed down the toilet daily, mixed together in the sewer system, and collected downstream in a vial in aggregate.
Clinical testing collects information from individuals. …
As vaccination expands across the US, the ability to monitor the virus concentration in sewage in parallel with vaccine rollout and reported Covid-19 cases can provide real-world evidence for, and improve our understanding of, the impact of vaccination on reducing the spread of Covid-19.
Monitoring wastewater data provides invaluable insight. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is shed in the stool of infected individuals and aggregated in public sewers, where it can be detected and quantified to provide information on population-level Covid-19 incidence. …
Why it matters
The presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the feces of COVID-19 patients and in wastewater has drawn attention to the use of wastewater surveillance as an epidemiological tool. Communities are looking at SARS-CoV-2 viral titers to understand trends over time, and further inform reopening plans for states and school systems. However, we believe that there’s much more that can be learned from wastewater data. For example, at Biobot we have been pioneering the development of models to estimate the number of COVID-19 cases from viral titers. …
As the U.S. continues to grapple with a rise in COVID-19 cases across the country, public health officials have an incredibly difficult job determining when to reopen communities and businesses, as well as when to issue stay-at-home orders in response to new outbreaks. Now, more than ever, officials need smarter data to help them make these tough decisions.
Unfortunately, current testing and hospitalization data present a narrow and delayed snapshot into the spread of the virus within a community. This data also does not account for asymptomatic cases, which constitute a high proportion of any given infected population.
“I’ve been dealing with viral outbreaks for the last 40 years. I’ve never seen a single virus — that is, one pathogen — have a range where 20 percent to 40 percent of the people have no symptoms.” That’s what Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
For those concerned with public health, Dr. Fauci’s comment highlights an alarming fact about the coronavirus that presents a unique challenge. If people are asymptomatic, then they don’t know they have the virus — so they don’t get tested.
Accordingly, basing measures of prevalence on hospitalizations or deaths…
TL;DR: In an area with 446 reported cases, our sewage-based method estimates up to 115,000.
Estimating the true number of COVID-19 cases is extremely challenging. Counting confirmed clinical cases provides an important view into the scope of this pandemic, but case counts are a dramatic underestimate due to limited access to clinical testing. Moreover, asymptomatic patients or those with mild symptoms may never seek out testing in the first place, but they are potentially still contagious.
SARS-CoV-2 is shed in stool and has been detected in sewage in the U.S. …
Sewage is a community-level urine and stool sample, how do we decide what to look for?
At Biobot Analytics, we’re building a platform to measure population health by analyzing human chemical and biological information collected in our sewers. We’ve applied our technology to measure the scope of the opioid epidemic, and are now rolling out methods to track the spread of COVID-19 through sewage.
The idea behind our technology is simple: everybody pees (and poops, hopefully) every day. When you use the toilet, you’re excreting valuable health information. The bacteria, viruses, and chemical metabolites that you shed provide a readout…
Our public health systems are reactive. Here’s how we think sewage can help.
Public call to action
Let’s use sewage to map the outbreak of COVID-19 and provide real-time data for governments and communities to get ahead of the crisis.
Current context The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented responses from governments around the world. China built two hospitals in ten days, Italy is locked down in an attempt to control the outbreak, and large gatherings all over the US are being canceled while universities move their semesters online. While very important to control the spread of the virus that…
We analyze sewage for viruses, bacteria and chemical metabolites excreted in urine and stool. We map this data, enabling smarter public health decisions.