Saskatchewan. sewage data shows growing strain of BA.5 variant, except in Prince Albert

University of Saskatchewan researchers using sewage to determine the extent of COVID-19 in the community have found that the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron is becoming more prominent, but not quite the dominant strain of the virus in the province.

The latest report released by the research team on Sunday states that the total viral load remains “relatively low, indicating a fairly consistent level of infections across all three cities”, i.e. Saskatoon, North Battleford and Prince Albert.

A graph representing the absolute viral load of COVID-19 found in wastewater through the end of the reporting period on July 27, 2022. (John Giesy)

John Giesy, the project’s principal investigator, says the take-home message is that everything is down. He also said that Delta is no longer found in wastewater and has been replaced by Omicron.

Of the three cities, Prince Albert is the only city where the BA.5 subvariant does not become more pronounced in the COVID-19 landscape.

This most recent report found the subvariant accounted for 45.9% of known infections in Saskatoon and 48.1% in North Battleford.

In Prince Albert, this most recent study found no viral load with the BA.5 subvariant, compared to the previous report which found it accounted for about a fifth (19.4%) of infections.

Giesy said he ‘had no idea’ why there was a noticeable absence of the strain, but said the virus tended to have a delayed effect on the city, after a few weeks later than Saskatoon.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t BA.5s in Prince Albert, just that there are so few that it doesn’t count in their research, Giesy said.

Instead, BA.2 and its subvariants – with BA.2.12.1 being the most prominent – ​​have a strong footing when it comes to COVID-19 infection in the city.

The most recent data from Prince Albert revealed that BA.2 and its subvariants make up all of the viral load found in sewage, despite increases in BA.5 in other cities where sewage is tested. (John Giesy)

COVID-19 viral load below average

Despite a spike in viral load in North Battleford, a 214.7% increase from last week, and a slight increase in Saskatoon, researchers say all three cities remain below the average load measured since January 2022.

“The main thing is that they’re all pretty low,” Giesy said.

“As we approach our limit of detection and there aren’t many infected individuals, things bounce back a bit.”

The University of Regina, which logs Regina’s wastewater data, said in a social media post that its results would be shared on Tuesday.

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