A team of scientists from Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU) and North South University (NSU) has claimed to make the first and successful attempt to detect SARS-CoV-2 viruses' genetic material in the sewage water.
The team is led by Prof Firoz Ahmed, chairman Dept of Microbiology, Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU), said a media release issued by NSTU on Saturday.
They collected specimens in between July 10 and August 29, 2020, from drain, sewage and toilets near Shaheed Bhulu Stadium Detention Centre dedicated for Covid-19 patients at Noakhali, Bangladesh.
The team "successfully detected" several genes including ORF1ab, and N protein genes, from the sewage water samples, it said.
While the wastewater surveillance of Covid-19 has been focused on wastewater treatment plants around the world, the researchers opted for drain waters monitoring in the vicinity of isolation centre, which is first of its kind.
Apart from this being the first detection report of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the wastewaters of Bangladesh.
The uniqueness of the study has been the tracing of genetic load in the vicinity of the isolation centre that contains almost the constant number with Covid-19 patients.
This has been the key feature of this study as most of the study reported worldwide has either reported total infected person in the city or country, said the media release.
However, the critical observation has been the temporal variation where small drains showed reduction of genetic load, the bigger canal and main sewer city exhibited temporal accumulation of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.
On the other hand, distance of sampling location in meters appears to be insignificant from the perspective of wastewater surveillance of Covid-19.
According to the renowned virologist and former Vice Chancellor of BSMMU Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, it is internationally recognised the presence of Covid-19 in the gastro intestine system and therefore, the method developed by the team to identify the presence of Covid-19 in the sewage water could serve as a tool to prevent the future spread of the disease.
Prof Nazrul considers the initiative of the group as a remarkable achievement in developing an effective wastewater surveillance system in Bangladesh.
"Wastewater is an important source to monitor the presence and progress of the infection because the virus leaves the body of not only those who are symptomatic but also asymptomatic individuals through excretion," said NSTU Professor Firoz Ahmed, who is leading the ongoing preliminary research.
He also added, "Our finding effectively substantiates the ability of wastewater surveillance to enormously supplement testing individuals who are infected or incubating that virus which causes Covid-19."
Vice Chancellor of the NSTU, Professor Dr Didar-ul-Alam said they have been running Covid-19 Diagnostic Laboratory with the voluntary support of faculties, staff & students since May 2020.
"In the meantime, our lab has performed about 21000 SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR tests to serve the peoples of ten upazilas of Noakhali and Laxmipur Districts with the financial support of our university. I am very happy with the research findings the existence of Covid-19 genetic materials in the wastewaters as revealed by our team during the global pandemic. This will help to establish national surveillance on tracking the routes of Covid-19 virus spreading and its interplay with the environment".
The team consists of Prof Md Jakariya, PhD, Dr Maqsud Hossain, Prof Hasan Mahmud Reza from North South University and Prof. Firoz Ahmed, Prof Dr Newaz Mohammed Bahadur, Foysal Hossen, Md Shahadat Hossain, Aminul Islam, Md Main Uddin, Md Nur Islam from Noakhali Science and Technology University.