Mobile lab Heads to rural Kentucky this summer to test waste water

Mobile lab travels to rural Kentucky to test waste water

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – This summer, people in rural Kentucky could see a mobile lab show up that’s equipped with technology to detect covid-19 in wastewater and notify local health departments within hours. According to experts, wastewater testing can show signs of an outbreak prior to detection in clinical samples by evaluating presence of viral biomarkers like RNA.

To do that, a teams of researchers are taking hands-on learning to the next level.
This summer they will go on a road trip to Appalachia to gather samples from nine different waste water treatment plants, testing them for SARS-CoV-2.  Ideally this experiment will be used as an early warning system for surges of variants.  The researchers say they aren’t using conventional wastewater testing because it takes a long time.

Instead they’ll be using a lab on wheels. The head of the team invented this new technology called exclusion-based sample preparation.  This technology uses special beads to extract RNA and gets results as soon as two hours after collecting a sample.  A dashboard is then shared with local health officials when a measurement of the virus is found in waste water.

The regions the van will help serve are home to several hundred to tens of thousands of people. While funding for this project is short-term, the researchers are looking at the long-term potential of this technology in other countries.

“This waste water process could be used for so many other things besides detecting covid in the future and I think that’s why a process like this is so great and covid was a good starting point for that,” says Katrina Eterovich, a senior at the University of Kentucky.

The van also has scheduled visits at three high schools in eastern kentucky where researchers will work with the students.

Categories: Featured, Local News, News