The trend is clear, it’s slowly rising now, even if there aren’t significant amounts, says Helen Norder, associate professor of microbiology in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, and a microbiologist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Helen Norder leads the group of virologists in the university’s Department of Biomedicine who have been investigating the presence of sars-cov-2 in wastewater since February last year. The work is done in collaboration with the municipality-owned Gryaab, which handles Gothenburg’s wastewater with surrounding municipalities, sending one sample per week consisting of daily collected samples to the researchers.
Five times the minimum level
After the decline in levels that started in week 20, and the lower observation that followed week 27-28, i.e. during the first half of July, there was a gradual increase in levels. Although levels are still relatively low, a tenth of the peak during the second wave of the epidemic, recent results are worrisome, says Helen Norder.
– It’s worrying because we hit five times the minimum, and that’s before schools start properly. This means we have a spread around Gutenberg, even if it’s not very large. We’re not seeing clusters of the kind we had before, but the spread is probably evenly distributed, she says.
It is unclear how care is affected
During the pandemic, the research group provided regular reports to caregivers and infection control in the Västra Götaland region. The increased presence of virus in wastewater has been linked to an increased spread of infection and, in the long run, an increased burden on healthcare.
What we can say is that the amount of virus we find in sewage is related to the occurrence of disease, but we can’t handle how severely people are infected. Before we had a vaccine, a few weeks later we saw effects in healthcare, and now we’ll see how it goes with it, and depending on how many have been vaccinated, they probably won’t need hospital care if they become infected, says Helen Norder.
– I hope we will not go back to this situation again, but COVID-19 is an insidious disease where the need for care does not appear until more than a week after the illness. One cannot stress enough the importance of vaccination to avoid serious illness, she says.
Helen Norder, Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, [email protected]
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