Wastewater tracking by UTSA researchers provides data about COVID-19 in Bexar County

San Antonio researchers spent months testing wastewater in Converse for COVID-19 virus

SAN ANTONIO – University of Texas at San Antonio researchers began a wastewater testing program in June for the COVID-19 virus.

The team collected samples from the San Antonio River Authority’s wastewater treatment plants in Converse. It took researchers about four days to process a wastewater sample.

Researcher Haya Al-Duroobi said the study found spikes of COVID levels coincided with large social gatherings during the holidays.

“An interesting finding is that after July 14th, we found a strong sharp increase in the trend line, and that’s when Fourth of July holiday actually corresponded to that high COVID-19 numbers because of gatherings and traveling. And we also saw that it was evident after the Thanksgiving break, many people also did a lot of gatherings and where there was a peak for that,” Al-Duroobi said.

Researchers monitored the presence of the virus through testing wastewater sewage containing feces, bodily fluids and other residues.

“We reported all this data to San Antonio Metro Health,” Al-Duroobi said.

Funding for the project ended in December.

Al-Duroobi said they are ready to apply the technology in other parts of Bexar County.

“We can also apply this on disadvantaged populations, and we do that on microscales as well with more concerning communities such as schools, senior homes and university dorms,” Al-Durrobi said.

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