The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has approved funding of more than $1.7 million over the next two years for the wastewater research of Michael J. Conway, associate professor of microbiology in the Central Michigan University College of Medicine.
Wastewater surveillance is crucial to identifying COVID-19 infections and community transmission early on, including in populations that are not showing signs of illness or may not be seeking health care.
Conway's lab is part of a statewide network for testing and evaluating the levels of COVID-19 virus in wastewater.
"We are really excited to participate with a large network of laboratories across the state of Michigan," Conway said. "The data from this research will have a significant impact on the way communities can react to a public health crisis such as a pandemic."
The grant will support costs associated with COVID-19 wastewater surveillance and local public health response for the research project titled "SARS-CoV-2 epidemiology ― wastewater evaluation and reporting (SEWER) network." SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name for the virus that causes COVID-19.
Conway participated in the MDHHS pilot wastewater monitoring program in 2020. According to the MDHHS, all of the participating sites in the pilot project detected SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, which is promising news for the future of the monitoring program. The amount of the virus in wastewater can serve as an early warning to community health departments so they can quickly begin mitigation efforts. The research also provides data regarding the presence of variant strains of SARS-CoV-2.
Co-principal investigators on the grant are Elizabeth Alm, professor in the CMU Department of Biology, and Rebecca Uzarski, director of CMU's interdisciplinary environmental health and safety major. Maggie Williams, assistant professor in CMU's School of Engineering and Technology also is participating and will be involved in data reporting and communications.