ASHKELON | To combat the epidemic of COVID-19, the israeli city of Ashkelon has tested a technology to analyze the wastewater, a means of tracking down the virus and alert in case of occurrence of new outbreaks.
“When the pandemic of COVID-19 appeared, it was clear to us that we could use this system (wastewater), or this knowledge, for a better understanding of what was going on,” says Ari Goldfarb.
A young surfer has been marked by the sewage flowing into the Mediterranean. In adulthood, he created the company Kando has developed a technology to detect the industrial waste in the sewers of his coastal town.
His company is deploying, as part of a pilot project, a network of sensors and controllers in the aqueducts of Ashkelon, a city of 130 000 inhabitants planted between the metropolis of Tel-Aviv and the Gaza strip. The aim of the operation: track down the new coronavirus.
Israel, which has about nine million inhabitants, has officially registered more than 19 100 infections, and 302 deaths, with a low ratio of deaths compared to countries in Europe and in the Americas.
But, these days, with the déconfinement, more than a hundred schools have closed their doors, after hundreds of students and teachers have been positive, the country fearing a “second wave”.
Since the onset of the disease in China, several scientific studies have noted the presence of the virus in the stool, hence the interest to study the wastewater.
Already, the sewage of Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Melbourne, have been analyzed. But “we are the only ones to be able to say where is the epidemic and what is its magnitude in the city,” says Mr. Goldfarb.
The sensors Kando measure the flow of wastewater as well as the distance traveled in the sewers and use algorithms to determine the best time to collect samples.
These are then analyzed in laboratories to detect any trace of the virus, explains Dr. Goldfarb.
The results of the pilot were consistent with the data of the ministry of Health, according to him. They showed the extent of virus circulation and indicated the households, as a hotel of the city in which the government was isolated from the patients with the COVID-19.
The sensors allow to determine the direction to follow in the maze of underground pipes to trace the source of the virus, ” continued the engineer.
And given the large number of cases little or no symptomatic, the presence of the virus can be detected before the first clinical cases are confirmed.
Such a monitoring system has already been used for other viruses, such as in 2013 to contain a brief outbreak of polio in a city in the south of Israel.
So far, Ari Goldfarb hopes that his company will be able to prevent a second wave of contamination. 33 of all the shops and facilities, resulting in considerable losses for the economy.3nie biotechnology at Ben-Gurion university of the Negev, beer sheba (south).33
“If you have a platform to detect the virus, like the coronavirus, you can use it to detect other viruses,” says Karin, Yaniv, phd student in the Department of engineering biotechnology from the Ben-Gurion university of the Negev, beer sheba (south).
In his laboratory, the researcher inserts the samples collected in the wastewater to the interior of a machine. The screen of connected computer illuminates immediately, indicating the presence of the new coronavirus in the samples.
Despite the presence of other substances, which complicates the task, it remains, she says, the best way to prevent an epidemic. And furthermore, it is more practical to test periodically the whole of the population.
Following the pilot of Ashkelon, a number of municipalities in israeli have shown their interest in Kando, without for the moment charge the company to deploy on a larger scale in his method.
So far, Ari Goldfarb hopes that his company will be able to prevent a second wave of contamination.
All that thanks to this technology, he argues, the authorities may manage the outbreak locally without resorting to measures which are widespread and drastic as the closure of all shops and establishments, resulting in considerable losses for the economy.
“This means that people will not lose their jobs, they will have a better future, ( … ), and that the next thrust of contamination will be managed better.”