The disease COVID-19 is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 which can be detected in faeces. Current detection methods rely largely on molecular techniques to identify unique genetic material for the virus, SARS-CoV-2 . Genetic material can be detected in both viable (“living”) and non-viable or inactivated (“killed”) viruses so its detection does not mean the individual is necessarily infected or that the faeces is infectious.
It is possible to detect viruses using culture-based techniques, which provide information on the viability of the virus, but these methods are more difficult, particularly for SARS-CoV-2, and time-consuming than most molecular techniques, which is why they are less frequently used.
Research is underway to develop and test methods for surveillance of genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 in sewage. The approach can potentially be used to estimate prevalence at community level and identify hotspots where testing is low, potentially predict a second wave of infection, or eventually to monitor uptake of vaccines. The approach is not ready for deployment at scale and is not an alternative to testing in humans.
Want to know more about faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19?
- What is faecal-oral transmission?
- Can transmission occur via aerosolized faeces?
- How long can SARS-CoV-2 persist in the environment?
- Amount of infectious virus shed in faeces and infectious dose
- Has SARS-CoV-2 been detected in human faeces?
- If COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, why would it be detected in faeces?
- Are there special considerations for sanitation and COVID-19?
- Do sanitation workers need to take special precautions while handling faecal waste?
- Guidance for sanitation workers
- Can water sources be contaminated with SARS-Cov-2?
- Guidance for water treatment
- Water quantity