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Wastewater Testing for COVID-19

Wastewater surveillance helps leaders plan based on real data specific to their populace. Results indicate whether SARS-CoV-2 virus was detected and quantify the amount of virus in the sample, allowing the facility to track the viral load in the wastewater over time and act accordingly.

Sensfy specializes in environmental testing for COVID-19 in wastewater, air, and surfaces.  These tools can be used individually or jointly as part of a comprehensive COVID-19 Surveillance Program.

Wastewater surveillance has been utilized throughout the world by government agencies as well as private organizations to study the spread of COVID-19 and provide an early warning of an outbreak to communities well before other indications such as positive test results or hospitalizations. 

Sensfy now offers this service on a more concentrated scale to individual facilities such as schools, nursing homes, and businesses.

Obtaining a Sample

In coordination with the facility manager, Sensfy will determine the optimal location to draw a wastewater sample (typically from a manhole outside of the building).

An auto-sampling device will be installed at the designated location and programmed to draw a wastewater sample at predetermined intervals over the course of 24 hours to get a representative wastewater sample.

Sensfy will retrieve the 24-hour sample and deliver it to the laboratory for analysis.

female analyst obtaining ovid-19 wastewater sample

Analyzing the Sample

Sensfy analyzes environmental samples via real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction RT-PCR, a very common and reliable method (this is the same analytical method used for clinical testing). Targeted portions of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA sequence are copied as complementary DNA, which is then amplified and measured using fluorescence.

The specificity for this method is extremely high, meaning the likelihood of a false positive is low. The laboratory will only report a positive result if two separate and unique regions of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA sequence are present. If only one of these regions is detected, this will be indicated on the report with an “inconclusive” result.

The laboratory uses a standard solution known to contain two target regions of the SARS-CoV-2 gene sequence. These controls are analyzed with every analytical batch. Positive controls must yield a positive result for the analytical batch to be considered valid.

The laboratory uses specially prepared nuclease-free water as a negative control. These controls are included with every analytical batch. If a negative control yields a positive result, this indicates that a contamination event has likely occurred during batch preparation, and the analytical batch is invalid.

The RT-PCR analyzer used in the Sensfy laboratory features a batch analysis chip with multiple “wells” for analyzing both samples and controls. For a sample in any given well to yield a positive result, at least five copies of the SARS-CoV-2 gene sequence must be present.

Analysis Results

Analysis results will be delivered within 1-2 days of the laboratory receiving the sample. Same-day results can be requested for an added fee.

Analysis results will indicate whether SARS-CoV-2 virus was detected and quantify the amount of virus in the sample, allowing the facility to track the viral load in the wastewater over time and act accordingly.

Samples Per Week
Price Per Sample
Weekly Cost

Each community/facility must determine the appropriate next steps if wastewater testing results are positive or show an increasing trend, but some options to consider are as follows:

Reach out to the local health authority for guidance.

Request that individuals who commonly use the facility get tested.

Implement additional mitigation measures such as face coverings, social distancing, or facility disinfecting.

Temporarily close the facility.