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Wastewater being studied at Marshall for SARS-CoV-2

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 10:28 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Students in Marshall’s College of Science are getting lessons their professors couldn’t have imagined before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last fall, Marshall staff and students started collecting and testing campus wastewater for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

They got inspiration from a program used across the country testing municipal wastewater as a predictor of clinical outbreaks.

“The idea would be detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater is a good indicator there is a person or more likely persons shedding the virus in that sewer-shed,” David Neff, a lab manager in the chemistry department, said.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) reached out to Marshall to collaborate on a larger project of surveillance monitoring at the state level. The hope is to create a system that gives the state time to prepare for case surges.

“It seems to be a positive sign that we’re going to ramp things up here and improve our lab capacity and hire people to do the work,” Neff said.

“We’ve learned a lot about long-term surveillance for infectious diseases,” Dr. Chuck Somerville, the dean of the College of Science, said.

The dean says they’re hoping to come up with a system that not only provides information on this crisis but can help the state manage the next one, as well.

“It’s great, because I’m doing this for my capstone, so it’s a great experience for me,” Marshall senior Cyrus Falsafi said.

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