Airport Wastewater Monitoring Tracks the Spread of COVID-19 | AIChE

Airport Wastewater Monitoring Tracks the Spread of COVID-19


A study conducted by epidemiologists in the U.K. suggests that monitoring wastewater at airports could be an effective public health tool for tracking COVID-19 across borders.

Although most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, international air travel continues to play a significant role in the global spread of the virus. In part, this is because infected individuals who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic may travel without testing. Studies have also shown that even with control measurements such as masking, one infected passenger on an aircraft may transmit the virus to 10–17% of the individuals on the flight.

As a result, complementary methods of clinical surveillance have emerged, including wastewater monitoring. This public health tool has been widely used throughout the pandemic to identify outbreaks and monitor new variants at the local level, such as in buildings and on university campuses.

“In wastewater-based monitoring, everyone who uses the facilities contributes to the sample,” says Kata Farkas, a researcher of Molecular Ecology and Evolution at Bangor Univ. in Wales, who coauthored the study. “It gives you a better idea of the mild and asymptomatic cases along with the more serious ones.”

However, at the global level, scientists have been uncertain whether this surveillance method could also be used at airports. Aircraft toilets dispense many disinfectants...

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