UNLV Wastewater Program used to monitor COVID-19 in our sewers – Community News

UNLV Wastewater Program used to monitor COVID-19 in our sewers

LAS VEGAS (CLASS) — The sewers in Southern Nevada can tell a lot about what is happening in our community.

Wastewater helps UNLV scientists determine what kind of flu strains there are and where. Ultimately, this information will help researchers develop vaccines faster.

Edwin Oh, associate professor at the UNLV School of Medicine says, “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.”

UNLV research assistant Hayley Baker and student Nabih Ghani collect wastewater for science.

“It’s quite remarkable what kind of information can be gathered from a community without having to test a single person,” Baker said of looking for flu in the sewer.

“Our stool pretty much contains a lot of information about ourselves,” Baker added.

Edwin Oh started this wastewater monitoring program to detect COVID-19. He says the accuracy is perfect.

“This is technology that really gives us more information than we ever thought possible.”

Oh and his team have spent countless hours collecting, analyzing and arranging and sharing their data. They partner with the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Southern Nevada Health District.

He says they can get real-time results within 24 hours.

“With this wastewater, we can also see if the virus in Boulder City mutates in a slightly different way than North Las Vegas.”

Instead of guessing which strain of flu is headed our way, Oh says, “The stats right now are about 40-60% of the time the vaccine is effective.”

The global collaboration could eventually lead to a more effective vaccine.

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