Monkeypox may be added to wastewater monitoring in near future

Aug 17, 2022, 6:00 PM
life expectancy decrease...
The CDC issued Thursday recommendations for use of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 bivalent vaccines to help protect Americans from COVID-19.Photo credit: Jessica McGowan/ Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — In light of polio being found in New York’s wastewater, there has been a recent emphasis on tracking diseases and viruses in wastewater.

Pathogens are shed in human waste, this could be gastrointestinal and even respiratory diseases. They end up in our sewage systems. These pathogens can be found, tracked, and treated in wastewater.

With things like monkeypox, it’s unsure if things like washing hands and any particulates from the lesions can make its way into wastewater.

How and why is wastewater tested for disease?

According to Nathan Lacross with the Utah Department of Health Wastewater Division, a sample is taken of raw wastewater before it enters a treatment plant.

He says that when testing you need to be specific for what you are looking for. Right now, there is no panel that tests a wide variety of pathogens. However, you can test for things like covid, monkeypox, and polio individually.

“There’s a lot of stuff in wastewater. There’s detergents, chemicals, medicines, and soaps that comes from people’s home, and businesses, industries. These all have an effect on the sensitive tests we do in the laboratory,” said Lacross.

And why test for these things?

Lacross says it’s an efficient way to get a sense of what is happening in communities.

The CDC is working on a panel of pathogen targets to more easily run a test for everything at once.

Right now, there is sampling twice a week at 34 different municipal systems, or about 88% of the state population.

“You can’t get that data any other way,” said Lacross.

So, what else can be seen in testing?

Other things such as antibiotic resistant genes.

This has a major impact on clinical care. Lacross says if antibiotic resistance gets out of control this puts us back before we had antibiotics making them useless.

You can also look for opiates in wastewater.

Lacross said “This can give a sense of prescribed use and even abuse that is happening within certain communities.”

This can help direct addiction treatment, education, and counseling resources.

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Monkeypox may be added to wastewater monitoring in near future