Japanese researchers confirm coronavirus testing in sewers as possible outbreak warning system

By Rocky Swift
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese researchers confirmed the presence of the corona virus in sewage systems, a finding that could serve as a signal for future outbreaks.
The study tested water from four wastewater treatment plants in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures in western Japan. Out of 27 samples, 7 were positive for the SARS-CoV2 virus, according to a preprint of a study by Toyama Prefectural University, Kanazawa University and Kyoto University.
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The results reflect similar studies in Australia, the United States and Europe. Public health experts say that such samples could be used to estimate the number of infected people in a region without testing everyone.
"Waste water tests are used as an early warning system to alert people to (possibly unnoticed) ongoing transmission in the community," said Yuki Furuse, a professor at Kyoto University who was not directly involved in the study.
Japan is changing its test strategy to prepare for a possible second wave of infections. The Ministry of Health reported yesterday that antibody tests of nearly 8,000 people showed an infection rate of 0.1% in Tokyo, 0.17% in Osaka and 0.03% in Miyagi rural prefecture.
Also yesterday, the Department of Health approved the use of antigen tests to confirm negative cases, rather than repeated polymerized chain reaction (PCR) tests. Antigen tests made in Japan by a subsidiary of Miraca Holdings Inc <4544.T> provide results in 10 to 30 minutes, compared to up to six hours for a PCR test.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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