Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has mooted setting up sewage and air surveillance system in the Indian Parliament to find the prevalence of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Director General Shekhar C. Mande made a presentation to this effect to Vice-President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha M. Venkaiah Naidu in the presence of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Director Rakesh Mishra, IICT Director S. Chandrasekhar, senior scientist Venkata Mohan and Atya Kapley of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Nagpur).
Dr. Mande informed the Vice-President that sewage surveillance provides qualitative as well as quantitative estimate of the number of people infected in a population and could be used to understand the progression of COVID-19 even when mass scale tests for individuals are not possible. It is a measure to comprehensively monitor the prevalence of the disease in communities in real time. Elaborating on the relevance of sewage surveillance, Dr. Mande pointed out that COVID-19 patients shed SAR-CoV- 2 in stools.
Apart from symptomatic individuals, asymptomatic people also shed the virus in their stools.
Presenting data of the sewage surveillance carried out to find the trend of infection in Hyderabad, Prayagraj (Allahabad), Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Nagpur, Puducherry and Chennai, he said it provides an unbiased estimate of numbers since the sampling is not done at individual level.
On the other hand, the numbers obtained by regular testing depend on the number of individuals tested. Hence, sewage surveillance of COVID-19 would be relevant not only to understand the present epidemiology of the disease but would be an indispensable tool for early and easier detection of future COVID-19 outbreaks, the DG maintained.
He also suggested setting up air sampling system to monitor viral particles and potential infectivity threat. The Vice-President complimented the scientists for their work and assured the delegation that he would discuss the issue with the Lok Sabha Speaker, Om Birla and also the government.