Researchers at the University of Louisville and Arizona State working with the Metropolitan Sewer District for Phase II of the Co-Immunity Project to test wastewater for COVID-19 antibodies. Image courtesy MSD. June 18, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville has been able to identify a new strain of COVID-19 in our area by checking the county's wastewater.  

Researchers at the university have been using wastewater to monitor weekly infection rates.

In early April, UofL researchers detected a Brazilian variant in western Jefferson County's wastewater. The school alerted the health department, which confirmed a positive case a week later.

The university recently received a grant to expand the testing. Doctors say it could be valuable in identifying and fighting other disease outbreaks as well.

Researchers say early detection helps target resources to areas of greater infection.

"The ability to detect viruses early, such as in this case, gives officials more time to take precautions and contain their spread," said Aruni Bhatnagar, professor of medicine and director of UofL's Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, which leads the wastewater research. "With pandemics, every second counts. In as little as one week, the virus can spread significantly, and then it becomes much harder to contain. This work gives us more time and an opportunity for targeted testing."

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