The project for testing the presence and concentration of the novel coronavirus in sewage water could help the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) identify the possible spots of infection in the country without the need to test each and every person in these areas, an expert told Qatar TV on Monday.
The coronavirus causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
Dr Khaled Mahmoud, research programme director for the Water Quality Programme at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (Qeeri), explained that the project tests samples from the major sewage treatment stations across the country from the areas of population concentration and those with possible infection spots to see the presence and concentration of the virus.
"The project started in June this year, and for 12 weeks the tests showed high levels of the virus presence in the collected sewage samples that reflected the high numbers of infections prevailing in the country at that time," he recalled.
The sewage samples were tested using the same RT-PCR process deployed to test for the infection in people.
These tests could help in giving an idea about the number of infections in a certain area.
As the number of infections started to drop, the strength of the coronavirus in the sewage started to drop as well, as it includes human waste which will have the presence of the virus excreted by those infected.
"There is constant communication and co-operation with the MoPH in this regard.
“There is also a joint project with MoPH to test the sewage of a number of schools in the country.
“To begin with, samples are collected from 16 schools around two times a week to perform the necessary tests.
"If the results that show the presence of the virus in certain samples, the MoPH will be notified to take the necessary action. That saves time and cost of testing everybody without a need to do so otherwise."
Mahmoud thanked Qatar Foundation, Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar and Ashghal for their support and active role in the project.
Dr Usama Mohamed, a teacher of the human genome at Sidra Medicine, told Qatar TV about a project that has succeeded in creating a simulation of the human immunity system in lab rats, enabling its cells and tissues to produce antibodies similar to the human system.
"This Sidra Medicine project will help greatly in the research to produce an effective and safe vaccine for Covid-19 and any viruses that could appear in the future," he added.