Researcher criticism after KTH’s sewage test: “Not reasonable”

Analyzes of the wastewater may show coronavirus levels or outbreaks of vomiting. But researchers believe that there is a lack of interest among politicians to invest in the analyzes. “It is not reasonable in the long run that the Swedish public health system is supported by volunteer students,” says David Nilsson, associate professor at KTH.

Wastewater can show the prevailing influenza and viruses before patients reach the hospitals. On Monday, KTH’s analyzes showed that coronavirus levels in the metropolitan area are increasing. Similar analyzes have been made at the University of Gothenburg since February, after the spread of infection in China was discovered.

– There are several reasons to do this, not just the coronavirus. There may be other viruses such as winter vomiting that can be found in the wastewater and see if an outbreak is underway, says Heléne Norder, virologist and adjunct professor at the Department of Biomedicine.

In studies from 2014 and 2017, outbreaks of winter vomiting have been discovered in the wastewater at the University of Gothenburg before the health service noticed this, which made it possible to prepare for nursing homes and in the health care system.

– It was the same with sars-cov-2 this spring. Two weeks after the increase in wastewater, the number of patients admitted to the hospital increased. According to our data, the hospital management could detect it and plan according to the risk that more patients would come and prepare beds. Then it also came continuously in four waves, says Heléne Norder.

“Can’t push it in the long run”

Similar studies are being carried out in Uppsala, among other places, and the analyzes could have been carried out across Sweden in terms of equipment, according to David Nilsson, associate professor and director of KTH Water Center.

But it requires resources.

– There are many who can do it, but what is missing is a clear order and a clear concentration of power from national or regional authorities. An individual university cannot run this in the long run.

Instead, Nilsson wants to see political decisions and money set aside to continue and develop research.

– Yes, otherwise this will not develop into a really sharp tool.

Draw critically

But there is criticism of the sewage analyzes and how safe they are. In an interview with Swedish daily newspaper says state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell that the data in KTH’s study is not reliable enough to be able to establish that there has been a large increase in corona infection in Stockholm.

– What does this add that we do not already see? I’m very hesitant about that. We have other better systems that tell us what the development looks like in Stockholm, says Anders Tegnell to the newspaper.

David Nilsson agrees that the analyzes that are made need to be developed.

– The criticism that comes now is that this is not so safe and that it is a new method that needs to be developed. Yes, but who will develop it then? KTH does not have its own resources to operate.

As an example, he takes the Netherlands, which tests the water at 300 locations under national auspices, and also the United Kingdom and the United States, which developed the tests.

– In Sweden, there is no one who drives the issue.

“Not reasonable”

Heléne Norder had also wanted to see a larger investment to finance analyzes of wastewater in Sweden.

– I think you should do it at least on trial for two years and then evaluate it. I think you can get a lot out of it. You should arouse that interest, she says.

KTH currently finances the analyzes of the wastewater through grants from foundations, through own funds and from contributions from students.

– It is not reasonable in the long run that the Swedish public health system is supported by volunteer students, says David Nilsson.

Facts: KTH’s water analyzes of the wastewater

KTH Vattencentrum co-finances the research work together with Chemical Engineering and Sustainable Development. The project has also received support from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

The samples show a sharp increase in the amount of coronavirus in the capital area from the end of August and that they are now at the same levels as in May.

The analyzes have been criticized by, among others, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell for not being reliable.

Source: KTH, SVD.

Source: Nyteknik – Senaste nytt by

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