You thought that 2020 couldn’t get any weirder…well it just did. The state of Colorado may soon be able to detect potential COVID-19 outbreaks by using the toilet. The hope is that this method will act as an early warning system for potential outbreaks.
For those infected, feces can test positive for the virus in only a couple of days. In comparison, respiratory symptoms can sometimes take as much as 7-10 days to show up.
Carol Wilusz, a professor of microbiology at Colorado State University, has been leading a research team at CSU to get a feasible system in place to mass test feces for COVID-19. The team has been conducting work on this since mid-May. Another partner that has been helping in the research is a local company GT Molecular.
The team began to collect samples from the Fort Collins wastewater treatment facility in June. This was done to confirm that these tests could be rolled out across the front range. The goal is that by the end of July, Wilusz’s team will begin collecting sewage samples twice a week from 19 facilities across the Front Range. Some of the towns that will be included in the testing are Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Aurora, and Colorado Springs.
Samples will be shipped in ice to make sure that any potential virus inside will not be destroyed. Once the samples have made it back to Fort Collins they will be mass tested using a droplet digital PCR machine. This machine not only will detect the virus, but the amount of the virus within the sample.
The hope is that these tests will allow the state to spot potential Coronavirus outbreaks before people even have symptoms. The idea of these tests is to find hotspots and not specific people. This extra information might be crucial for towns to react in a timely manner to avoid an outbreak.
So if you live in the Front Range of Colorado, next time you sit down on the toilet you might be helping detect an outbreak.