Poo studies return – and they’ve got some worrying news

Truth be told, Poo Studies never went away. It’s just that – thankfully – they haven’t had very much to tell us about recently.

It does look as though that has changed recently, though.

Poo Studies is the fun name for the SAMRC surveillance programme for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in more than 80 wastewater treatment plants across 6 provinces in South Africa. Basically, as the link above describes, we can accurately predict the future when it comes to local Covid-19 infections simply by looking for bits of the virus in the wastewater (sewage) in the vicinity. It gives us a 1 or 2 week heads up notice on any impending wave of Covid-19 infections, and therefore up to three weeks on increased hospital admissions.

But while our wastewater has been tested very regularly for quite a while now, there’s really been nothing to tell us about. Until now.

And if you think that Cape Town is a steep rise, wait until you see what they’ve been excreting in Worcester, just on the other side of the tunnel:

To me, that actually looks like someone dropped some virus into the thermocycler. I’m intrigued to see if that is actually a genuine result, although that little rise between 19/09 and 26/09 does do a bit of groundwork. If it is genuine, well, no-one is saying that we’re all going to die or anything, but it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Covid levels are rising again. This is, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, the MO of this viral infection. But that sort of increase is a bit concerning.

But what variant will this be? And how will it affect South Africa with its under-vaccinated, over-exposed population. My microbiology senses are tingling with mounting anticipation (and a teeny-tiny amount of dread).