NSTU, NSU researchers find coronavirus in wastewater

S Ahmed Fahim, NSTU Correspondent

The research team of Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU) has found the presence of Covid-19 in the wastewater for the first time in Bangladesh. 

The research was conducted at Covid-19 Diagnostic Lab of NSTU with the support of North South University (NSU). Prof Dr Firoz Ahmed, Focal Point of NSTU Covid-19 Diagnostic Lab, led the research team. The research team consists of Prof Dr Md Jakariya, Dr. Maqsud  Hossain, Prof Hasan Mahmud Reza from North South University and Prof Firoz Ahmed, Prof. Dr. Newaz Mohammed Bahadur, Foysal Hossen, Md. Shahadat Hossain, Aminul Islam, Shariful, Md. Main Uddin, Md. Nur Islam from Noakhali Science and Technology University.

The team of scientists from two universities made the first and successful attempt to detect SARS-CoV-2 viruses’ genetic material in the sewage water. 

Prof Dr. Firoz Ahmed confirmed the matter. He said that they collected samples from drains, sewers and toilets near Shaheed Bhulu Stadium Detention Centre for Covid-19 patients in Noakhali. The samples were collected for 16 times from July 10 to August 29 and the research team successfully detected several genes including ORF1ab, and N protein genes of Covid-19 from the sewage water samples.

About the research method, Dr. Firoz Ahmed said, the collected water was filtered by using machine. Then the dirt goes down. The upper water is separated. In that process, when the water is filtered again, all the viruses go down. Then RTPCR method was used for identification of coronavirus from that sediment.

Dr Firoz Ahmed added, “Wastewater is an important source to monitor the presence and progress of the infection because the virus leaves the body not only of those who are symptomatic but also asymptomatic individuals through excretion. Our finding effectively substantiates the ability of waste water surveillance to enormously supplement testing individuals who are infected or incubating that virus which causes COVID-19.”

About the research, NSTU VC Prof Dr Didar-ul-Alam said, “I am very happy with the research findings as the existence of Covid-19 genetic materials in the wastewater as revealed by our team during the global pandemic. This will help to establish national surveillance on tracking the routes of Covid-19 virus spreading and its interplay with the environment.”

Vice Chancellor of BSMMU Prof Dr Nazrul Islam considers the initiative of the group as a remarkable achievement in developing an effective wastewater surveillance system in Bangladesh.