College of Medicine and Health Sciences

Khalifa University Researchers Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 Levels in Municipal Sewage to Track COVID-19 Epidemic in General Population

May 3, 2020

Promising Scientific Process by Researchers to Collect and Analyze Wastewater Samples for Levels of SARS-CoV-2 Multiple Times a Week for Rest of the Year and Even Beyond if Required 


Khalifa University of Science and Technology today announced researchers from its Center for Biotechnology (BTC) and the Center for Membranes and Advanced Water Technology (CMAT), in collaboration with other stakeholders are working together on a project for the surveillance of SARS-COV-2 viral load in municipal wastewater, as a method for early detection and tracking the spread of COVID-19 in the general population.


Studies indicate that people infected with SARS-CoV-2, including asymptomatic individuals, shed virus through human waste. Since the levels of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater should mirror the number of detected infections in the population, testing a municipal wastewater sample will tantamount to essentially testing everyone who has contributed to that sample – in other words a way of mass testing.

The experiments have been successful, demonstrating Khalifa University’s preparedness in supporting the country’s measures against fighting COVID-19 through surveillance of the virus in wastewater.


Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University, said: “Thanks to the wise leadership, the UAE has always supported global-standard scientific research activities at Khalifa University in order to achieve the most innovative solutions, while initiating appropriate measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this research, Khalifa University aims to establish a surveillance system for COVID-19 in municipal wastewater streams, linking it with simulation models developed for predicting and controlling the spread of the pandemic, together with the health authorities.”


The project is led by Dr. Ahmed Yousef, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Shadi Hasan, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Habiba Alsafar, Acting Associate Dean for Student Affairs, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology, and Director of Khalifa University Center for Biotechnology. Dr. Alfaro Lopes, expert in Toxicology and Epidemiology in wastewater, was also collaborating with them, along with Hussein Kannout, Research Associate in the BTC at KU.


Once further studies assess the levels of SARS-CoV-2 found in COVID-19 patient fecal samples, scientists will be able to construct a model that estimates the total number of symptomatic and asymptomatic people in the population based on the levels found in wastewater.


Clarence Michael
News Writer
3 May 2020

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