Coronavirus Transmission Risk Via Sewage 'Must Not be Neglected,' Scientists Warn

While response to COVID19 pandemic is focused primarily on preventing person-to-person transmission, the Coronavirus might also spread in wastewater


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Coronavirus Transmission Risk Via Sewage 'Must Not be Neglected,' Scientists Warn

Environmental scientists have warned that the potential spread of Coronavirus via sewage "must not be neglected" as the viruses shed from the digestive system of COVID19 infected individuals tend to last longer than those from the respiratory tract.

The research, published in the journal Environmental International, mentioned that while response to COVID19 pandemic is focused primarily on preventing person-to-person transmission, the Coronavirus might also spread in wastewater.

It has recently been confirmed that the Coronavirus can also be found in faeces for nearly a period of 33 days after the COVID19 patient has tested negative for the respiratory symptoms of Coronavirus, said by Richard Quilliam, study co-author from the University of Stirling in Scotland.

Based on their new results, researchers warned that the sewerage system itself may pose a transmission risk.

Scientists also said COVID19's lipid envelope covering, suggests that it will act differently in aqueous environments, compared to other viruses generally found in the intestine.

There is currently limited information on the environmental persistence of Coronavirus, but the research mentioned that other coronaviruses can remain viable in sewage for up to 14 days, depending on the environmental conditions.

There is still no confirmation whether the virus can be transmitted through the faecal-oral route, however, we know that COvid19 shedding from the digestive system can last longer than shedding from the respiratory tract, Qulliam added.

Hence he said the fecal-oral route could be an important -- but as yet unquantified -- pathway for increased exposure.

Quilliam said since most COVID-19 positive patients are asymptomatic or experience just mild symptoms and remain at home, there is significant risk of "widespread" distribution through sewers.

According to the biologists, lack of COVID19 testing "makes it difficult" to predict the scale of the potential spread and the public health implications of the Coronavirus arriving at wastewater treatment works.

The transport of COVID19 in water could increase the potential for the virus to become aerosolised, particularly during the pumping of wastewater through sewerage systems, at the wastewater treatment works, the researchers mentioned in the study.

According to the research, the risk of fecal-oral transmission could be further increased in parts of the world with high levels of open defecation, or where safely managed sanitation systems are limited.

In these places, the researchers said waterways are used as both open sewers and sources of water for domestic purposes.

"Such surroundings are commonly accompanied by fragile healthcare systems, thus increasing both exposure potential mortality and risk," the researchers clarified.

Currently, all published data on faecal shedding of COVID19 derive from hospitalised COVID19 patients with limited information on asymptomatic and mild cases, researchers added.

May be in future, it requires to be a proper speculation of assets to make our understanding clear of the danger associated with faecal transmission of COVID19, and whether this respiratory Coronavirus can be disseminated by enteric transmission, the study concluded.

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