THE coronavirus spread may soon be tracked through our sewage.
In a joint project between The University of Queensland and CSIRO, researchers have detected the presence of SARS-CoV2, the virus which leads to the COVID-19 disease, in untreated wastewater.
The achievement is considered the first step in developing an early warning surveillance system to track COVID-19 prevalence in the community.
Director of UQ's Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences Kevin Thomas said the validated method built on work by research groups in the Netherlands and the United States of America.
"This is a major development that enables surveillance of the spread of the virus through Australian communities," Professor Thomas said.
"By showing how the method has worked in Australia, it is hoped that this research will bring together a national collaboration of government authorities, wastewater utilities, universities and other research organisations and commercial laboratories," Professor Thomas said.
"The next step is to build the capacity to deliver a national program."
Professor Thomas said the research used systematic sampling and analysis of wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 using a standardised, coordinated approach based on refined analytical methods.
"The wastewater samples were analysed for specific nucleic acid fragments of the virus using RT-PCR analysis, which is used to identify a gene fragment from SARS-CoV2," he said.
"The presence of SARS-CoV2 in specific wastewater samples was then confirmed using sequencing techniques."