Oakland University Teams With Aquasight to Pilot a Sewage Surveillance Program

Oakland University has partnered with the Troy, Mich.-based firm Aquasight LLC to conduct a sewage surveillance program that can track the presence of infectious diseases like COVID-19 in wastewater.

“As we see another wave of the virus sweeping through our state, sewage testing may prove to be an essential tool in providing hospitals the necessary lead time to prepare adequate staffing and resources to address community-level surges,” said Dr. David Stone, professor of Health Sciences and chief research officer at Oakland University.

Aquasight and Oakland University have set up dedicated laboratory facilities on campus that will carry out the sewage testing, which can detect COVID-19 genetic fragments in campus residential wastewater. Sampling locations on the OU campus include: Hillcrest Hall, Hamlin Hall, Oakview Hall and Vandenberg Hall, as well as the Ann V. Nicholson and George T. Matthews student apartments.

“Part of our mission is to be good community partners and better the world through knowledge,” said Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D. “This partnership, calling on the expertise of our Oakland University faculty lab researchers, will benefit the health of everyone in our local communities and beyond.

“As a physician-scientist, I also understand that if we can monitor infectious diseases through this process, it will give government officials and health care providers a big advantage in controlling the spread of disease,” Pescovitz added.

The test works for both asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals; an important distinction because it has been shown that individuals with COVID-19 may not show symptoms at all or it may be take two weeks to show symptoms. This advance notice will provide vital information for healthcare and government officials to both predict potential outbreaks and to monitor if the infectious diseases are lessening in a community.

“We (Aquasight) are a valued source for community health and public works departments,” said Aquasight Founder and CEO Mahesh Lunani. “Aquasight’s turnkey solutions provide important insights on the spread of infectious diseases at the neighborhood and even building level and are applicable to communities, college campuses, correctional facilities and nursing homes. We are able to quickly deploy our system that provides a 48-hour testing turnaround and are excited to partner with Oakland University to assist in their quest to keep students and staff safe.”