Did you know that you have been helping to manage the COVID pandemic, just by going to the bathroom? Since April 2020, a large team of researchers at U.C. Berkeley has been working with local partners to monitor wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Because people who are infected with COVID-19 excrete the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their feces, detection of the virus in wastewater can provide critical information about infection levels in the population to complement other public health data. Monitoring wastewater provides information on 100s to 100,000s of people in a single sample and is less biased than individual case data, which under-represents asymptomatic infections and cases in communities with lower testing rates. As more of the population is vaccinated and routine clinical testing for COVID declines, wastewater testing data is becoming even more valuable. Prof. Nelson will tell the story of this project – COVID Wastewater Epidemiology for the Bay Area (COVID-WEB; www.covid-web.org) – including what has been learned about the pandemic so far, the new science that is emerging, and how wastewater testing holds promise to improve health equity and be better prepared for future epidemics.


Dr. Kara Nelson

Professor Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering

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