Sewer surveillance in Israel‘s coastal city of Ashkelon has pinpointed unknown outbreaks of COVID-19 by identifying traces of the virus in the sewage system.

The project, similar to those undertaken in other countries, was carried out by wastewater management technology firm Kando and researchers from Israeli educational institutions including Ben Gurion University and the Technion in Haifa.

The research pointed to wastewater as a means of detecting outbreaks of the disease early as well as the ability to narrow hotspots down to specific streets, Kando said on Thursday.

Early studies by scientists in The Netherlands, France, Australia and elsewhere suggest sewage sampling for signs of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could help assess the number of infections in a geographic area, without having to test every person.

Samples of wastewater from the Paris sewage system have been showing traces of COVID-19 again since the end of June, having vanished when France imposed a lockdown.

For the Israeli pilot study, Ashkelon, with 150,000 residents, was chosen as it was thought to have a low number of cases. But researchers discovered significant remnants of the coronavirus in municipal wastewater, Kando said. Read more at Algemeiner