Share article:
Share article:

Leuven will track coronavirus in the sewers

© PxHere

The city of Leuven and the KU Leuven have launched a pilot project aimed at tracing the presence of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in the wastewater in the sewers.

The project will allow scientists to discover the presence of the virus – which is excreted in the faeces and urine of people who are infected – before waiting for any symptoms to appear.

The project is being led by Professor Bert Aertgeerts from KU Leuven, together with Alexander Van Nuijs and Peter Delputte from the university of Antwerp.

With wastewater analysis, we want to detect whether and to what extent infections occur in a certain area or population, even before this is shown by an increase in the number of people who test positive for COVID-19,” Prof. Aertgeerts said.

After all, some of the infected persons also have virus particles in the digestive system. Those particles are excreted and thus end up in the sewage.”

That would allow the city authorities to act more quickly, and hopefully stop the spread of the particular cluster detected.

Early detection can play a crucial role in fighting the virus,” he said. “If this works, it is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to set up an early warning system for larger areas, for example for a hospital or a residential care centre.”

The pilot project will concentrate on the sewage from densely-populated city blocks, care homes and other places where an outbreak could spread rapidly. For the information contained in the wastewater to be useful, it needs to be able to be traced to its origin.

Samples will be taken from the chosen locations several times a week, while daily samples will be taken from the general system to give an indication of the ‘normal’ levels. They can then be examined at the university hospital’s Rega Institute, whose department of clinical and epidemiological virology is headed by Professor Marc Van Ranst.

For us, the keyword is prevention. Better to prevent than to cure,” said Leuven mayor Mohamed Ridouani.

“The city is mapping all locations of the sewer system where accurate monitoring of the wastewater is possible. Even with a positive test in a neighbourhood, targeted sewage tests can support further contact and source research into other infections.”

Given that the symptoms of Covid-19 can take 10-14 days to appear, early intervention gives an enormous advantage by reducing the number of contacts that person, if discovered early enough, can go on to infect.

The sooner we detect where contamination is occurring, the more effective we can intervene and break through the contamination chain,” Ridouani said.

“Thanks to this collaboration, we can discover infections in an innovative way before people feel sick and have them tested. Combining all the knowledge and expertise that is present in Leuven, and the strong cooperation between all partners, remains a great strength in the fight against the coronavirus.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

More women take police selection tests in Belgium
The selection tests to become a police inspector have more and more female participants, according to figures released by Interior Affairs Minister ...
‘Absurd’: all Brussels schools should have the same Covid rules
Several city councillors for education in Brussels are calling to abolish the "absurd" differences in coronavirus measures for Dutch-speaking and ...
Massive renovations for iconic venue in the heart of Brussels
Brussels concert hall Ancienne Belgique has announced plans to renovate the AB Café and the AB Salon and is looking for a contractor fit for the job. ...
Display of child’s room in Brussels raises awareness of foster families
An exhibit that features a fictitious child’s bedroom has been on display since Tuesday at the Place d'Armes in Namur, with the support of the ...
Test results show pupils have fallen behind in Flemish schools
Learning delays have been reported in almost all subject areas in Flanders since the start of the pandemic, a trend that continued in 2021, a ...
Belgium considers relaxing testing rules for UK travellers
At the next Consultative Committee meeting, Belgium will look into relaxing the testing and entry policy for travellers coming from the United ...
Jette libraries start giving plants away with books
Visitors to libraries in the Brussels municipality of Jette will soon be able to pick up a free plant along with a book, thanks to the new Plantotek ...
‘Do what you want, but do it as safely as possible,’ experts warn
As the daily number of new coronavirus infections exceeds 3,000 for the first time since May, infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe and ...
‘We’re running dry’: Brussels teacher shortage reaches critical levels
The teacher shortage in Brussels is affecting schools across language borders, according to Brussels’ Minister for Multilingualism and Dutch ...
New coronavirus infections above 3,000 for first time since May
The number of people testing positive for coronavirus has skyrocketed to the highest rate since the start of May 2021. Between 9 and 15 October, ...
Belgium in Brief: Getting To The Airport
When I saw the news of plans for a tram line and cycle path to connect Brussels' outskirts to the airport, my first reaction was sheer joy.  Let ...
EU should invest €5 trillion in climate plan, says State Secretary for Economic Recovery
The European Union must invest €5 trillion in its climate plan over the next decade to "retain its credibility as a political project," according ...