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A CSIRO study has found that on-flight wastewater testing could be a low-cost way to screen for Covid-19

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Wastewater testing on flights entering Australia could help screen tourists for Covid before they even land, study finds

  • A CSIRO study on wastewater from Australian long-haul repatriation flights
  • Is the first time researchers have linked wastewater testing with clinical data?
  • Possibly a useful way to detect the entry of Covid-19
  • It’s because international flights to and from NSW start in November










Analyzing wastewater samples from long-haul flights from returning Australians could be key to detecting COVID-19 earlier – before passengers show symptoms.

A CSIRO study of wastewater from Australian repatriation flights returning from hotspots marks the first time researchers have compared aircraft wastewater tests with clinical follow-up data studies of quarantined passengers.

The leading research could provide a convenient and cost-effective way to detect and manage imports of the virus and build confidence as Australia reopens to the world.

CSIRO’s investigation into wastewater from Australian repatriation flights could hold key to managing Covid-19 imports (pictured, a passenger arriving at Sydney International Airport)

Qantas will start international flights to and from NSW from November after Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet announced on Friday the abolition of the hotel quarantine for fully vaccinated international arrivals starting next month.

CSIRO lead author Dr. Warish Ahmed said that as global travel returns, wastewater testing from flights could be an effective way to screen incoming passengers for COVID-19 at points of entry.

“It provides an additional layer of data if there is a potential delay in viral detection in deep nose and throat samples and if passengers are not yet showing symptoms,” said Dr Ahmed.

“The rapid on-site monitoring of wastewater at points of entry can be effective for detecting and monitoring other infectious agents circulating worldwide and warning of future pandemics.”

Studying wastewater from flights returning from hotspots could be a useful way to track the spread of the virus (pictured, Qantas wastewater sampling)

Studying wastewater from flights returning from hotspots could be a useful way to track the spread of the virus (pictured, Qantas wastewater sampling)

CSIRO lead author Dr.  Warish Ahmed (pictured) said if international travel resumes, the method could be the best way to screen for Covid-19

CSIRO lead author Dr. Warish Ahmed (pictured) said if international travel resumes, the method could be the best way to screen for Covid-19

University of Queensland author Jochen Mueller said wastewater testing could be a useful complementary tool to help stop the spread of the virus.

“Wastewater monitoring from large transport vessels with their own sanitation systems improves our ability to significantly control the spread of infection from overseas travelers,” said Prof. Mueller.

The samples were taken from toilets from 37 Australian government repatriation flights from COVID hotspots including India, France, the UK, South Africa, Canada and Germany that landed at Darwin International Airport between December 2020 and March.

NSW will reopen to the world in November, with Qantas begging for flights to and from the state (pictured, a Qantas jet)

NSW will reopen to the world in November, with Qantas begging for flights to and from the state (pictured, a Qantas jet)

The study found that wastewater samples from 24 of 37 repatriation flights — 65 percent — showed positive signal for the virus that causes COVID-19, despite all passengers, except children under five, testing negative for 48 hours before boarding. the virus.

Infected people lose the virus about two to five days before showing symptoms through their stool.

During 14 days of mandatory quarantine after arriving in Australia, clinical tests identified only 112 cases of COVID-19 among the 6570 passengers – 1.7 percent.

There was an 87.5 percent agreement between the positive detections from wastewater monitoring and the subsequent clinical detections during the passenger quarantine.

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