Wastewater tests take off in the fight against Covid

[Music plays and a split circle appears, and images move through each half of the circle of photos of different CSIRO activities, and then the image morphs into the CSIRO logo] [Image changes to show a view of researchers working in a lab, and then the camera zooms in to show a close view of a researcher, a machine, and a lab coat being taken from a hook]

Narrator: CSIRO researchers have developed a set of sensitive methods to detect SARS COVID-2 genetic fragments in wastewater.

[Images move through to show a researcher putting on a lab coat, a close view of the researcher putting on gloves, the researcher operating a machine, and a researcher working on a computer]

An important aspect of wastewater monitoring is the ability to quickly and inexpensively divert data from a large population through thousands of individuals,

[Image changes to show a hazard sign in the laboratory, a close view of a biohazard sign, a close view of tweezers being placed in a Bunsen burner flame, and a hand shaking a sample in a bottle]

with sufficient potential sensitivity to detect a small number of infected individuals contributing to SARS COVID-2 RNA in local sanitation systems.

[Image shows the bottle being unscrewed, and then images move through of liquid being poured into a clear glass container, a container being put into a machine, and the lid of the machine being closed]

This concept of pooling may be particularly important for regions with no COVID-19 clinical test rates, minimal resources, or no known cases.

[Images move through to show a sample being put into a machine, a researcher operating the machine, the Ecosciences Precinct building, and a rear view of a male entering a building]

We receive up to 100 wastewater samples per week from 45 wastewater treatment plants across Queensland. Sample delivery is handled by our staff at the University of Queensland.

[Images move through of a researcher taking a test tube from a tray, a test tube being filled, and a researcher picking up a disc with tweezers and placing it on the top of a glass type funnel]

The sample analysis process is complex and involves many specialized steps and instruments.

[Image changes to show a researcher placing a clamp around a glass funnel, and then the image changes to show the researcher pouring liquid into a glass jug at the top of the apparatus]

SARS COVID-2 is typically diluted in sewage given the small number of cases in Queensland.

[Image changes to show a close view of the liquid being poured, a close view of the apparatus being used, and a glass funnel on the apparatus]

Thus, the detection of this virus requires a concentration step. This step is very crucial for trace detections.

[Image changes to show a researcher with three sample jugs on top of three Bunsen burners and the camera zooms in on one of the sample jugs]

We have refined several methods of viral concentration to achieve the best results.

[Images move through to show a sample being put inside a test tube, a female researcher placing a long syringe into the test tube, and then a close view of liquid being drawn up into the syringe]

We use these methods depending on the type of sample for the sensitivity required and the urgency of the test results.

[Image changes to show two samples in a tray, and then the image changes to show the samples being placed into a machine, and then the image changes to show a hand operating a control panel]

After concentration of the virus, we extract the RNA, which is a small genetic fragment of the SARS COV-2 virus.

[Image changes to show the machine vibrating the sample tubes, and then the image changes to show a researcher looking at the sample tube]

This fragment is not infectious.

[Images move through to show a sample being put into a machine, a male researcher working on a computer, his hand on the mouse, and then the screen he is working on]

Once the analysis is complete, the critical analysis of the results takes place, the samples are cross-checked with all quality controls to verify the result and then we report it to Queensland Health.

[Camera zooms in on the digital images on the screen he is working on]

And this is one of CSIRO’s responses to managing the current pandemic.

[Music plays and the image changes to show the CSIRO logo and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

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