Bend wastewater part of U.S. study for signs of COVID-19

The City of Bend is one of 330 cities across the U.S. participating in a study with Biobot Analytics, analyzing wastewater for signs of COVID-19.

Bend’s Utility Department has been providing one sample of untreated sewage as it goes into the wastewater treatment plan each week for five weeks.

Biobot Analytics, a biotech startup, launched a COVID-19 sewage testing program in collaboration with researchers at MIT, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The City is teaming up with Deschutes County Health Services, which is providing technical leadership in response to COVID-19.

“Environmental surveillance is an important public health tool in monitoring transmission and serving as an early warning system,” said Dr. George A. Conway, Deschutes County Health Services Director.

The Biobot webpage says new studies show that SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, is shed in the stool of infected patients.

If successful, Biobot says these data could:

  • enable communities to measure the scope of an outbreak, including data on asymptomatic people,
  • anticipate emerging outbreaks and likely impact on health systems, and
  • inform public policy and track the effectiveness of interventions.

“We have only taken four samples and received the results for three, so it’s a little early to draw any conclusions with the limited data set we have thus far,” said Jeff Buystedt, Utility Department Program Manager Environmental Compliance. “Our and Biobot’s goal is to get more data.”

He said the local data will be used on a global scale.

“We are helping provide research and data that can help the entire world in the future,” said Buystedt. “Methods will continue to improve and get more accurate as we have more cumulative data. It’s still early in this effort, and we’re all learning together.”

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