The Ministry of Science and Innovation, by way of the COVID-19 fund of the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII), is funding a study aimed at establishing the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in environmental samples as well as its indirect transmission potential. The project is coordinated by the Institute of Integrative System Biology (I2SysBio), in the Scientific Parc of Valencia University (UV), and the results will provide valuable information to handle the epidemic.
Directed by Pilar Domingo, researcher at the I2SysBio of the UV, the project will analyse the transmission potential of the virus in the environmental and social conditions of Spain; it will research the waste water treatment plants, the intestinal liberation of the virus and its presence and behaviour in common surfaces such as plastics, stainless steel or glass, among others.
Even though SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses mainly spread directly between individuals during epidemic phases, the possible survival of the virus in the environment has the potential to initiate new outbreaks despite the implemented mitigation efforts. Establishing the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the environment is essential for an appropriate control of the epidemic beyond the actions aimed at decreasing the direct transmission of the virus, explains Pilar Domingo. Assessing the potential indirect transmission through surfaces, water or food will be key in order to make short-term decisions that help control the virus and minimise the risk of new outbreaks, she adds.
The Experimental Virus Evolution group of the I2SysBio, headed by geneticist Rafael Sanjuán and which Pilar Domingo works for, will provide an epidemiologic service to the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climatic Emergency and Ecological Transition of the Valencian Community, through the Directorate-General of Water and the Public Waste Water Treatment Company (EPSAR), on the issue of environmental virology. This cooperation will materialise shortly with the signing of an agreement between said department and three public Valencian universities, Valencia University, the Jaume I University and the Miguel Hernández University, to conduct a monitoring and early detection programme of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus genetic material in the waste water of the entire Valencian Community.
The project subsidised by the COVID fund also includes researchers from the La Fe Health Research Institute of Valencia, the FISABIO Foundation and the CSIC.
To date, the COVID fund managed by the Carlos III Health Institute has approved 117 research proposals to improve handling the coronavirus, with an investment of almost €22 million. The projects focus on research of the immune response, the biology, epidemiology or the clinical manifestation of the disease and the search for new public health solutions to improve the control of the pandemic, among other issues.
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