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The analysis of wastewater is a good early warning system for the detection of pathogens

This has also been shown time and again in this pandemic - the sequencing has even been able to detect the delta variant, for example in Switzerland.

And now also Omikron in this country.

Researchers found traces of the mutant, which was first detected in Africa, in wastewater samples from Munich. This was announced by a team led by the physician Andreas Wieser from the Tropical Institute at the LMU Clinic in Munich. The scientists found what they were looking for in various samples from the city area from December 7th. In those up to December 3, the new virus could not yet be detected. The researchers found the mutant using special PCR tests and genome sequencing.

The samples were taken at five locations, four from the Munich sewer system and one from a sewage treatment plant.

Six samples dating back to calendar week 49 were analyzed for the current sequencing.

The scientists found omicron traces in five.

However, the researchers do not make any statements about how many people are infected with the new variant.

"We were able to detect small amounts of sequences in the samples that are specific to the Omicron variant," says Wieser.

This indicates that the spread of this virus variant in Munich was already greater in calendar week 49 than previously assumed.

In the wastewater, the sequences of strains of the Delta variant were still dominant.

In Germany, the monitoring of wastewater got off to a slow start, although several research groups had collected data.

And the EU Commission had also asked the European states to install wastewater monitoring in their infrastructure.

Such systems existed in the Netherlands and Denmark, for example.

But there were only regional initiatives, for example in the Berchtesgadener Land.

But to this day there is still a lack of extensive surveillance.

The advantages are obvious.

Ideally, data on infected people can be obtained from wastewater before they even know about the virus.

Because several days often pass between the increase in new corona infections and the official reporting figures.

Whoever carries Sars-CoV-2 excretes at least fragments of the coronavirus.

This genetic material can be detected with modern molecular wastewater analyzes.

But even less elaborate examinations allow indications of the extent to which the virus is spreading in the population - sometimes weeks before the wave.

The Munich project team has been analyzing samples from the Munich sewer system only once a week and now twice a week since April 2020.

The current results would underline the important contribution of wastewater monitoring to the description of the infection process, said Wieser.

The exact proportion of omicrons is unknown

Bavaria's Minister of Health, Klaus Holetschek, emphasized that wastewater tests are an important early warning system.

"The aim must be to curb or at least slow down the spread of omicrons," said the politician.

It is not yet known how much the Omikron variant has spread in Germany.

At the beginning of December, the Robert Koch Institute assumed a share of 0.6 percent.

Projections show that based on 300 daily Omicron infections from two weeks ago, a five-digit number of new infections with this highly contagious mutant must be assumed.

[Source: The Limited Times, Spiegel, Munich, 21Dec21]

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