(KMOV.com) - Missouri epidemiologists have been testing wastewater while test results show a state flushed with coronavirus cases.

“We’re learning new things about it every month,” says Jeff Wenzel.

News 4 found the state has been detecting coronavirus volumes in wastewater since May. The samples are provided by MSD from their seven wastewater treatment plants across St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

“We don’t have any plans of stopping anytime soon,” Wenzel said.

The state says they can detect coronavirus in human feces before symptoms appear.

“The spike in the wastewater actually precedes the spike in clinically reported cases sometimes between 4 to 10 days,” said Jennings Heussner.

Heussner represents the private lab company called Biobot. The wastewater testing company is also working in Missouri to trace the virus for research and government purposes.

Biobot is focused on three cities, but due to a confidentiality agreement, they cannot divulge that information. But Heussner says they're getting a very clear indications of how bad the infections are in the state.

“It gives you upwards to a week of advance notice for what is to come, and it can show that it can be a definitely help in the public health spaces,” he said.

Numbers provided to the state show steep increases in cases. MSD’S Missouri River facility shows COVID-19 specimens flowing through the plant spiking significantly at the end of October. This pattern is repeated at all seven plants across the St. Louis region, with the worst being seen at the Fenton and Bissell Point locations.

Health officials in other states have used wastewater data to increase mobile testing and determine stay at home orders. Missouri state officials say they hope to pinpoint this data in areas where there are low numbers of cases to prevent a super spread.

The state has received federal funding from the CARES Act for this testing. The funding will end June 2021.


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