Detecting COVID-19

Dec. 10, 2020

MSU to test statewide wastewater for early COVID-19 

Michigan State University has received $2.1 million in grant funding to test for the coronavirus in wastewater, which has the potential to be an early warning system for COVID-19.

Irene Xagoraraki will expand COVID-19 detection in Southeast Michigan with $800,000 grant.
Associate Professor Irene Xagoraraki will expand her ongoing COVID-19 detection program in Southeast Michigan with an $800,000 grant.

Irene Xagoraraki, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, was awarded $800,000 to expand an ongoing COVID-19 detection program that tests untreated sewage in the City of Detroit and Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties.

Her wastewater-based-epidemiology project began in 2017 in collaboration with the Great Lakes Water Authority and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The team’s early efforts were funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

In April of 2020, Xagoraraki received additional funding from the Great Lakes Water Authority to focus on COVID-19 and develop an early warning system for the Detroit Metropolitan Area. 

“Our early work confirmed the validity of the method to provide early warning of multiple viral diseases, including hepatitis and COVID-19,” Xagoraraki said. “The Detroit project goes above and beyond simple testing of wastewater. We include multiple other data, measurements, and processes to provide a tool that can be used by public health officials,” she added. 

Learn more on Xagoraraki’s research in this video. Her head start with Detroit public health officials was also recently featured in the Detroit Free Press. And read more on the partnership expansion during the pandemic from the City of Detroit.

MSU’s $2.1 million in funding was provided Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from Michigan’s allocation of federal money under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, CARES. Existing COVID-19 wastewater surveillance programs were funded to quickly establish a standardized and coordinated network of monitoring systems across the state. 

Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at MSU, was awarded $1.3 million to train and assist labs with analytical methods. Rose will be working with 20 advanced PCR laboratories around the state. PCR, which stands for polymerase chain reaction is a DNA-based technology that provides a valuable tool for the detecting and quantifying viruses. More than 100 wastewater locations will be monitored for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to provide early warning and to assist the health departments implement public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus particularly to sensitive populations.

Read more on the $2.1 million grant on MSUToday.