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Two MSU Labs Receive Funding To Continue Work Monitoring COVID-19 In Wastewater


Two Michigan State University laboratories are receiving funding to continue monitoring for traces of COVID-19 found in wastewater.

Wastewater is tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It can show up in feces that ends up in Michigan's public sewer systems.

Almost $6 million in funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will be split and go to Professor Joan Rose’s Water Quality and Environmental Microbiology Laboratory and Professor Irene Xagoraraki’s Environmental Virology Laboratory.

Rose says her team has already learned a lot.

“We’re finding out a lot of different things, and wastewater is helping us with that. We know that even though that we’re vaccinated, some of us can still get infected but we don’t get sick. So we could pass that on to people that are not vaccinated," she said. "So watching our wastewater we can say ‘Hey there are infections in the community, but maybe some of us are infected but we’re not sick yet.’”

Thanks to the new funding, the program can expand as a statewide effort to conduct surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. Nearly 20 laboratories in Michigan that will be collecting almost 70,000 samples over the course of the project.

The team is also gearing up to monitor the wastewater on MSU’s campus when students return for the fall semester.

Rose says they had been testing for the presence of E. Coli bacteria on Michigan beaches which made the switch to this project easier.

“Because we had that expertise being developed, we were able to mobilize this network very quickly to serve the state during this pandemic. So, it’s been really exciting to see that happen.”

Rose’s lab will receive $3.2 million and Xagoraraki’s lab will receive $2.7 million.

The Michigan COVID-19 Wastewater Dashboard will be updated in the near future to reflect the results from the funding for the project, which will continue through July 31, 2023.

McKoy's story is brought to you as part of a partnership between WKAR and Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. 

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