Montreal’s wastewater could track the next COVID-19 wave

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McGill University research assistant Sneha Singh with wastewater samples that have been collected and frozen since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Photo: JOHN MAHONEY / Montreal Gazette

(Linda Gyulai/ Montreal Gazette) — Wastewater samples that have been collecting in the freezers of two Montreal university research labs since late February offer the potential of an early warning system before the next wave of COVID-19 infections hits the province.

Researchers Sarah Dorner and Dominic Frigon, respectively of École Polytechnique and McGill University, were among the first scientists in Canada to jump on the idea of testing wastewater to track the spread of the novel coronavirus in the population as a complement to individual testing.

But when the Quebec-wide shutdown began in mid-March, university laboratories were closed along with classrooms and most businesses.

Nevertheless, the researchers continued to collect samples from Montreal’s wastewater treatment plant in Rivière-des-Prairies and from plants in some other municipalities, storing them at -80 C. (…)

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