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- The US is considering testing airline wastewater for COVID-19 to track the virus.
- COVID-19 cases are surging among China’s 1.4 billion people after a three-year of strict lockdowns.
- Wastewater tests showed the presence of COVID-19 variants up to two weeks before people tested positive using nasal swabs.
The US is considering testing the contents of plane toilets on international flights for COVID-19 to track the virus and any potential new variants, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency told Reuters.
The policy option is being studied as COVID-19 cases surge in China among its 1.4 billion people after a three-year of strict lockdowns.
Three infectious disease experts told Reuters that testing wastewater collected on airplanes would be more effective at tracking the virus than testing travelers on entry.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told the news agency that mandatory testing has so far failed to stop the spread of COVID-19 and is “essential from a political standpoint” but not from a scientific one.
Dr. Eric Topol, a genomics expert, and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, told Reuters that testing airline toilet water would offer a better idea of how the COVID-19 virus is mutating.
This would also help combat China’s lack of COVID-19 data, Topol said.
According to the South China Morning Post, the Malaysian government has announced that they will start screening toilet water on flights from China to track the virus.
They will not, however, be testing travelers upon arrival to Malaysia.
Current evidence suggests that testing wastewater is more effective than COVID-19 tests in revealing infections, with researchers from San Diego finding that wastewater tests showed the presence of the Alpha, Delta, Epsilon, and Omicron variants up to two weeks before people tested positive using nasal swabs.