The University of Missouri won’t be testing students at the front end as they arrive this week by jabbing a long swab into their nostrils to find out if they have COVID-19.
Instead, they will be testing them at the back end, by monitoring wastewater from residence halls for signs of the virus, then working to isolate which residence hall has infection and boxing in those who are contagious.
The novel monitoring program is an outgrowth of a project that has been checking samples from 71 wastewater systems, large and small, from around the state. After four weeks, the program has shown a lot of promise as a way to get an early warning that the coronavirus is circulating in a population.
“We will show it before people go to a clinic,” said MU scientist Marc Johnson, who has been processing the samples with Chung-Ho Lin in their campus lab. “People put it into the wastewater before they think they are sick enough to go in and get checked.”