Delta variant widespread in parts of WC’s sewage plants, scientists say

Biomedical researchers from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) analysed wastewater samples from various towns in the province and detected the presence of the highly infectious variant.

A team at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) shows us how the long process of testing sewage samples begins. They aren’t looking for a live coronavirus, but are searching for RNA, a nucleic acid similar to DNA. Picture: Zukile Daniel/Eyewitness News.

CAPE TOWN - Scientists on Wednesday said the prevalence of the coronavirus Delta variant was widespread in parts of the Western Cape’s sewage plants.

Biomedical researchers from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) analysed wastewater samples from various towns in the province and detected the presence of the highly infectious variant.

The variant is driving a rapid rise in new coronavirus cases being recorded now during the country’s third wave of the pandemic.

SAMRC scientists have analysed wastewater samples to detect the presence of nucleic acid fragments of the inactivated coronavirus.

Samples from 24 wastewater sites in the City of Cape Town metro and four in the Breede Valley and Theewaterskloof have been tested.

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The SAMRC's Doctor Rabia Johnson said most of the wastewater sites revealed the presence of the delta variant.

“We were quite surprised when we found that the Delta variant was the dominant strain in most of our wastewater plants. We were able to identify the location that represents the Delta variant within 70% of our wastewater plants.”

Johnson said it needed to be investigated whether heavy traffic highways played a role in driving increases in COVID-19 cases in small towns around the Breede Valley area.

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