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Brazilian variant of COVID-19 found in Louisville wastewater

Published: May. 13, 2021 at 9:17 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – The Brazilian strain of the coronavirus was detected in Jefferson County wastewater.

A University of Louisville Co-Immunity Project looked at wastewater samples which showed the Brazilian strain, known as P.1, in western Jefferson County in April.

“The ability to detect viruses early, such as in this case, gives officials more time to take precautions and contain their spread,” professor of medicine and director of UofL’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute Aruni Bhatnagar said. “With pandemics, every second counts. In as little as one week, the virus can spread significantly, and then it becomes much harder to contain. This work gives us more time and an opportunity for targeted testing.”

Samples from 12 sites and five wastewater treatment facilities from across Jefferson County are analyzed weekly. Testing allows health officials to see how prevalent the infection rate is in an area without invasive testing, such as nasal swabs.

“This is one more example of how UofL has led the charge in finding new and innovative ways to detect, contain and fight COVID-19,” UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation Kevin Gardner said. “Developing these new, more efficient tools for tracking pandemics, such as wastewater monitoring, is a big step in advancing health for our community and beyond.”

UofL recently received a $8.6 million grant to allow researchers to go from identifying whether disease exists in a neighborhood to estimating how prevalent it is there.

UofL said Bhatnagar believes understanding that connection could “revolutionize the way we track and contain pandemics, and not just COVID-19.”

According to the Axios variant tracker, the Brazilian P.1 variant has a 2.1% prevalence in Kentucky and 5.2% in Indiana.

The Co-immunity Project is looking to 2,000 people to undergo random testing for COVID-19 infection and antibodies the week of May 17 to 23. To participate click here, call 833-313-0502 or email covidsupport@louisville.edu.

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