University Discovers New Form of Covid-19 Testing

Stellenbosch University is currently implementing a new waste water based surveillance system that detects Covid-19. The new system helps detect early infections and picks up on people who are asymptomatic. 


Stellenbosch University has implemented a new waste water based surveillance platform to detect institutional Covid-19 outbreaks its two campuses. 

The new system picks up on the genetic fragments of the virus that come from infected peoples faeces in the waste water.

Testing of the waste water can also be done on a community level. 

Edward Archer, a research associate in Department of Microbiology at Stellenbosch explains: 

So in fact using these viral indicators has actually shown that the shedding can happen weeks before rise in hospitalizations and a rise of infections happen on a community scale.

Archer says that this form of testing can be done on a national level and identify the hotspots. 

This measure is being taken to safeguard the campus community and prevent high infection rate at the university.

It allows the campus to track the location of the infected people through the sewer lines.

According to Archer the testing method is similar to the one of diagnostic testing.

While the surveillance testing doesn't prevent the virus, it can curve the spread through picking up on those who are asymptomatic and prevent the virus from spreading to the point of high levels of hospitalization and high numbers on positive cases.

Archer says:

This is something we're continually investigating in the Western Cape now since the third wave.

Waste water surveillance testing has been implemented before by leading and developed organisations, proving to be a great measure to identify hotpots and asymptomatic patients.

Archer says that rather than it being a preventative system, it is more of an early warning system, to prevent numbers from rising to the point of being unbearable. 

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