COVID-19 viral load spike in wastewater, U of R researchers say


The peak viral load is similar, and possibly a little higher, to the levels detected in May 2021.

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Researchers at the University of Regina (U of R) studying the presence of COVID-19 in the city’s wastewater suspect that some sort of spreading event is behind a recent spike in the water viral load.

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A few more days of data analysis are needed to make sure the jump, which began on August 18, is not just a jerk, but a real surge in viral load.

“It’s a bit worrying,” said Dr Tzu-Chiao Chao, one of the principal investigators of a pilot project launched last August. He called the jump “dramatic,” but said they wouldn’t release the data until they were sure what it meant.

“A day or two of more data would actually allow us to say more if it’s just something travel-related or if it’s really a lingering spread now in the city,” he said. he declared.

Chao and her colleague Nicole Hansmaier are examining the city’s sewage as a way to determine how many people may be infected with COVID-19. The data can help indicate whether additional COVID-19 testing is needed, or whether there has been an outbreak or outbreak that has not yet been detected.

The recent spike in viral load is similar to levels detected in May 2021, according to Chao.

As the number of COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization or resulting in death declines thanks to vaccinations, he said recent studies show that even people who are not hospitalized or have no symptoms can still spread the virus. , potentially creating a virus pool that could eventually lead to the emergence of new variants. He said the Delta variant took over the city in less than two weeks when it first appeared.

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That is why they continue to monitor the viral load in sewage. By keeping abreast of the data and sharing it, he said it could help raise awareness and demonstrate the need for increased wearing of masks and other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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“I think that overall, the wait has been long, at least since we knew that breakthrough infections are probably more frequent than initially expected in vaccinated people, than with ultimately an increase in major events,” a reduction in the wearing of a mask, etc. there is an almost inevitable rise in infections, ”said Chao, adding that big events in Regina like the Riders games have certainly not helped the growing number of cases in the city.

He is not an epidemiologist, but has said from his personal perspective that there should be public health orders in place, especially until we know how well the vaccine protects against long-term effects. term of the virus. At some point we’ll have to take risks, he said, but with just over a year of data now is not the time.

“It’s only natural that we wanted to put this behind us, but the problem is that the timing can’t be decided by us or any official. It’s really something that depends on the virus, ”Chao said. “Even with the vaccines, he has no intention of letting go, obviously.”

– with files from Alec Salloum

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