MIT Starts Testing Wastewater for COVID-19

by Jaden Zhang . 09-14-2020

Over the months, MIT has been finding new ways to try and contain/stop COVID-19. The first step for them to take was to test out the strategies on their campus and their effectiveness. Currently, MIT has started using wastewater to detect if an outbreak of COVID-19 will occur at any place. The wastewater is any water that is connected to the plumbing (toilets or sinks). The reason as to why this may work is because people may not feel sick even if they are infected. The incubation period can be from 1-14 days. Therefore, you may not be sick or showing symptoms but you may be shedding the virus. You may not feel sick but your stool samples can determine otherwise. As a result, this can determine if there are any asymptomatic people on campus.

There is a process to collect and test the samples so that it is safe and efficient. This test does not determine if any individual has the virus, but can determine which area (on campus) does. It is merely a warning detection system to contain outbreaks. The process begins in the pipes where they modified their sanitary piping in order for the samples to be extracted out. The samples are then collected in a can where there is a motor, a pump and a timer component. This ensures that any samples that do not get used will be pumped back into the pipes. Everyday the samples are collected very carefully so as to not get any contamination. It is then sent off to their labs to get tested. They enrich the virus particles in the wastewater. Next, the viral particles are broken open to get their RNA. Then it is just the same as the CDC swab test. MIT tests if there are any traces of COVID-19 in the wastewater.

They are collecting samples from different sections of the campus so if they detect any problems they can alert the residents to get an official test and stay quarantined. It is to note that they are not using the wastewater to detect anything other than COVID-19. This is currently just in trials and is being tested at the moment. This method can be very effective at containing the virus in many areas and helpful as an early detection system. Since asymptomatic people are mainly the ones who are spreading the virus, this can detect the virus before they feel ill. Information has been sourced from Check out their website for even more information.