Wastewater Sampling for Covid-19 Tracing with Biobot

Installation of Biobot sampling devices for COVID-19 analysis and tracing through RNA markers found in wastewater

Biobot logoWeston & Sampson is working with the Boston Water and Sewer Commission and Biobot Analytics, Inc. to help analyze and track/trace COVID-19 in the City of Boston’s wastewater system. According to current research, the novel coronavirus can be detected in feces soon after infection, yet before an individual begins experiencing symptoms.

Biobot, a startup launched out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a leader in wastewater epidemiology, utilizes wastewater infrastructure as public health observatories; they analyze sewage to map population health. Headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts, Biobot has repurposed their work detecting opioids in wastewater to identify and trace COVID-19. They recently launched a collaborative pro bono program with researchers at MIT, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to map the spread of COVID-19 across the country.

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission agreed to participate in this innovative new program and asked Weston & Sampson to help them perform local COVID-19 testing in city manholes so scientists can estimate the spread of the virus in Boston. Weston & Sampson’s professionals are installing 24-hour-sampling devices in 11 sewer manholes strategically located throughout the city. With these sampling devices installed, teams can collect wastewater samples from the sewer-shed for analysis.

Biobot will then analyze samples from these wastewater collection efforts to detect the genetic material (RNA) indicative of the virus. Using RNA as a marker, representatives involved with this groundbreaking new project hope to determine the approximate number of people infected in these test areas, assess containment efforts, and predict/prepare for infection fluctuations as local and state officials try to stem the tide of this pandemic going forward and potentially manage new waves of infection.


(photos courtesy of Boston Water and Sewer Commission)

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