81% of international flights into NYC had SARS-CoV-2 in waste

The study demonstrated feasibility as COVID surveillance nose-dives worldwide.

ARS TECHNICA – In a small trial, aircraft wastewater proved easy and useful for monitoring the SARS-CoV-2 variants touching down in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

The study found that the testing could be done cheaply and easily; it only added about three extra minutes to aircraft maintenance times at airports and didn’t require hassling passengers with nose swabs or other sampling methods.

Moreover, the testing could be easily scaled up as needed as the world largely abandons other SARS-CoV-2 testing and monitoring strategies, the CDC authors concluded.

The authors concluded:

“This investigation demonstrated the feasibility of aircraft wastewater surveillance as a low-resource approach compared with individual testing to monitor SARS-CoV-2 variants without direct traveler involvement or disruption to airport operations.”

“Overall, 65 airborne sewage samples from 80 flights (81 percent) were positive for SARS-CoV-2.”

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The CDC conducted the study in collaboration with biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks.

Together, they collected and tested wastewater samples from 80 flights into New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport between August 1 and September 9, 2022.

All the flights were international, originating from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and France.

The rate of positive samples was the same among the three countries: the Netherlands samples were 81 percent positive, with 22 of 27 samples positive …


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