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SARS-COV-2: Multidisciplinary Project On Sewage Helps Safeguarding Public Health In Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong's multidisciplinary team conducting a research for detecting SARS-CoV-2 in sewage has led to improvements in the surveillance of outbreaks in local communities and potential clusters.

Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicince (HKUMed) announced on Monday 28 December 2020, that residents of Fung Chak House in Choi Wan Estate, and anyone who visited the building since December 15, will be subject to mandatory testing after four sewage samples taken in the past five days came back positive for coronavirus.

With no confirmed cases so far in Fung Chak House, Professor Leung said the virus found in the sewage is most likely coming from an asymptomatic carrier of SARS-COV-2. The team took those samples after 15 people came down with Covid-19 in the neighboring block of Ming Lai House.

The team includes Professor Leo Poon, Co-Director at HKU-Pasteur, Doctor Hein Min Tun, Principal Investigator at HKU-Pasteur, and is led by Professor Tong Zhang of Department of Civil Engineering.

Sponsored by the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) under the Food and Health Bureau, this project allowed the collection of more than 300 domestic sewage samples from sewage collection systems in different areas for nucleic acid tests of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Since the beginning of the project in October 2020, the team has been able to demonstrate that sewage surveillance could provide early warning of COVID-19 outbreaks, reflecting the overall spread of virus in the community. It also helps tracking the development trend of community outbreak.


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