Ground Water Canada

COVID-19 Updates News Research
Durham Region and Ontario Tech University partner on research to detect second wave of COVID-19


July 6, 2020
By Ground Water Canada

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Ontario Tech University biological science expert Dr. Andrea Kirkwood, a member of Canadian Water Network’s COVID-19 Wastewater Coalition, will lead the sample testing.

Oshawa, Ont. – Researchers with Ontario Tech University’s Faculty of Science are working with Durham Region Health Department, Durham Region Works Department and other partners to detect an anticipated second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team will collect and test dozens of untreated sewage samples weekly from multiple water pollution control plants in Durham Region, the university said in a news release. They will check for traces of the virus and develop a model for predicting new cases for identifying new coronavirus hot spots in the area.

The tracked information will be shared with Durham Region Health Department officials to help determine appropriate steps to limit or prevent further infection in the community.

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The capacity for targeted wastewater sampling near local long-term care homes, for instance, means there will be an early warning system in place for vulnerable populations. The sampling protocol and models will be made available for use by other communities across Canada.

“Ontario Tech University helps industry, community, government and academic partners uncover innovative solutions for societies’ most pressing problems,” said Dr. Steven Murphy, president and vice-chancellor of Ontario Tech University. “This timely and vital wastewater detection project brings together an incredible wealth of community expertise. Not only will this research directly benefit lives in our community, it also expresses our desire to use tech for good in everything we do.”

COVID-19 can spread rapidly. Many COVID patients are asymptomatic, so individuals may transmit the disease before it is detected. The development of state-of-the-art tools for early detection of viruses in wastewater can indicate the severity of infection in a community, mitigating and reducing infection spread.

The research has received external financial support, including $90,000 from Mitacs, a non-profit national research organization that works with academic institutions to meet business challenges with innovative research solutions; $50,000 from the Ontario Clean Water Agency; $30,000 from Cole Engineering Group Ltd.; and major in-kind contributions from Durham Region.