KATYA MONIZ: Our goal in this initiative
is to establish and validate a wastewater-based system
to monitor COVID-19 on campus.
And this is complementary to all the medical testing that's
being done here at MIT Medical.
Wastewater is incredibly rich source of information
about public health.
A lot of pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2,
are excreted in stool, and are detectable in wastewater
at very, very low levels.
So for instance, wastewater reflects
everyone who is infected and shedding the virus,
not just people who are symptomatic.
It can actually be a leading indicator
of what's detected in the clinic because there's
no lag between when the person gets the virus
and starts shedding and when they feel sick enough
to go to their doctor and maybe get access to a clinical test.
CARLO FANONE: The apparatus we use and the system we're using
is very simple.
We modify our sanitary piping, and specifically
the clean-out section, and we insert a gripper plug.
We then create a test port out of that modification,
and we put pick-up tubing inside the sanitary line
to collect the samples used for testing.
The device that collects those samples
contains a motor, a pump, and a timer and containers.
The samples that we do not use get
pumped back through the exact same line,
back into the sanitary line.
DAMON BAPTISTA: MIT's Environment, Health
and Safety Office is an integrated office
of safety professionals from a wide variety of disciplines.
When we look at certain things for this project,
one of the things is what kind of personal protective
equipment will the people wear.
Some examples are safety glasses and gloves.
For this project, in particular, we
looked at some of the sampling protocols.
So the technicians will come to the site every day.
They open up this box.
Inside, there is a container with the samples.
They withdraw a small amount of that sample.
They put it into a collection tube.
They close that tube tightly.
They put some plastic wrap on it,
called parafilm, to avoid any leaks.
They put that in a bag.
They put that in a cooler that gets delivered
to the lab for processing.
AMY XIAO: The first thing we do is we inactivate the wastewater
to make sure that everyone in the lab is safe.
Next, we enrich for the viral particles
inside the wastewater.
And then we break the viral particles
open to get their RNA.
Then after that, it's basically the same thing as the CDC swab
test, where we do a PCR.
And that will tell us if the virus is in the wastewater,
and if so, how many viruses were in there.
KATYA MONIZ: So what this is going
to look like for the fall semester
is we're rolling this program out in seven buildings
across campus, and we are collecting samples
around the clock.
So to ensure that this wastewater-based method is
effective, we will validate our results
against anonymized, fully de-identified data
from MIT Medical.
We're only looking at COVID-19.
We're not using wastewater to detect anything else.
There is no personally identifiable information
that we're going to derive from this wastewater.
So our hope is to establish a wastewater-based system that
will complement our medical efforts right now
to track COVID-19 in the current pandemic,
but also be something that we can have
as a platform in the future to track other diseases, so
for instance influenza or norovirus,
or other health concerns in the MIT community.
CARLO FANONE: This has been an amazing collaboration
across many groups and departments here at MIT,
and we're very grateful for everybody's support.