US Considers Testing Airline Wastewater As It Doubts Chinese Data Over Covid Surge: Report

The latest US move on casting doubt on China's data on the rise of Covid: Report

Travel restrictions, Like mandatory testing, have so far failed to significantly limit the spread of Covid. (File)

Chicago/New York:

As COVID-19 cases increase in China, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering taking wastewater samples taken from international aircraft to monitor for any new variants emerging, the agency told Reuters.

Three infectious disease experts say such a policy would offer a better solution for tracking the virus and slowing its entry into the United States than the new travel restrictions imposed by the United States and the United States. Other countries announced this week that a negative Covid test is mandatory for travelers from China. Reuters.

Dr Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, said travel restrictions, such as mandatory testing, have so far failed to significantly limit the spread of Covid and activity. mainly optical.

“They seem essential from a political point of view. I think every government feels like they’re going to be accused of not doing enough to protect their citizens if they don’t do these things,” he said. .

The United States this week also expanded its voluntary genome sequencing program at airports, adding Seattle and Los Angeles to the program. That brings the total number of airports that collect information from the positive tests to seven.

But that may not provide a meaningful sample size, experts say.

Dr Eric Topol, a geneticist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, said a better solution would be to test wastewater from airlines, which would give a clear picture. more about how the virus mutates, given China’s lack of data transparency. california.

Retrieving aircraft wastewater from China “would be a very good tactic,” Topol said, adding that it is important for the United States to upgrade its surveillance tactics “because China doesn’t want to share its their genes.”

China says criticisms of its Covid statistics are unfounded and downplays the risk of new variants emerging, saying it thinks the mutations will be more infectious but less severe. . However, doubts about China’s official data have led many places, including the United States, Italy and Japan, to impose new screening rules on Chinese travelers as Beijing lifts controls. travel.

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in an email that aircraft wastewater analysis is one of several options the CDC is considering to help slow the introduction of new variants into the United States.

The agency is grappling with a lack of transparency about Covid in China after the nation of 1.4 billion people abruptly lifted Covid’s strict lockdown and testing policies, allowing the virus to spread to the group. unvaccinated and previously unexposed population.

“Covid-19 wastewater monitoring has previously proven to be a valuable tool, and aircraft wastewater monitoring could be an option,” she wrote.

French researchers reported in July that jet wastewater tests showed that requiring a negative COVID test before international flights did not protect countries from the spread of the new variants. They found the Omicron variant in the wastewater of two commercial planes that flew from Ethiopia to France in December 2021 even though passengers were required to take Covid tests before boarding.

California researchers reported in July that sampling of community wastewater in San Diego detected the presence of Alpha, Delta, Epsilon, and Omicron variants up to 14 days before they began to emerge. appear on the nasal swab.

Osterholm and others say mandatory testing before arriving in the United States is unlikely to prevent new variants from leaving the country.

“Border closures or border checks really make very little difference. Maybe it slows it down by a few days,” he said, as the virus has the potential to spread worldwide and can infect people in Europe or elsewhere, who could then bring the virus to China. USA.

David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said increased genomic surveillance is important and wastewater sampling can be helpful, but testing is needed. time.

“I think we should be careful with the extent to which we expect those data to be able to really inform our responsiveness,” he said.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)

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