NewsCovering Kentucky


Nothing going to waste; UK enhances wastewater testing program

Posted at 8:33 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 20:33:25-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Several months ago, LEX 18 introduced you to a new form of testing being done on the University of Kentucky campus.

Scientists have been collecting wastewater from campus buildings and testing the waste matter for coronavirus. Now they've enhanced their research to make it more efficient and affordable. And the first few months have revealed the testing comes with a fairly high degree of accuracy.

"The positivity rate does seem to mirror what we're seeing around the community," said Dr. Scott Berry an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Berry, whose work led to a unique HIV test used in another country, is teaming with two other UK researchers on "WACKY;" Wastewater Assessment for coronavirus in Kentucky. Thus far, it's working as hypothesized.

"Back in September, we saw a lot of positivity. Then there was a bit of a lull in October. And just recently, things started to pick up again," Berry said.

Berry said the testing and its results allow for contact tracing at a much more efficient and quicker level.

"We use this as almost an early-warning system. If we see SARS-CoV 2 levels spike in a particular building, we can say, 'okay, the students in that building need to get re-tested," Berry said.

Berry added that the enhancement of the current UK project could lead researchers to use this type of testing for other things, post-pandemic.