Spotting the Second Wave
Prof. Robert Delatolla, uOttawa Civil engineering professor, and his team of researchers are exploring how wastewater testing could be used to detect future outbreaks of COVID-19 in the Ottawa region.
Before the pandemic, Prof. Delatolla and his team studied wastewater to understand how naturally occurring microorganisms can remove water pollution. They are now using their knowledge of wastewater to help health authorities by creating a tool to accompany the current COVID-19 testing and catch new outbreaks early. Prof. Delatolla and his team are able to detect COVID-19 in wastewater by its presence in fecal matter.
“This type of testing has been done for polio and many other outbreaks before, so we knew if we could track the virus in the water, then maybe we could get a better sense of how much infectivity is happening and better understand the trend,” says Delatolla.
Soon, the real-time wastewater data will be shared online. So far, Prof. Delatolla and his team are the only team reporting their data directly to Ottawa Public Health and to the Ottawa hospitals.
Prof. Delatolla has recently published two articles regarding his team’s work. Prof. Delatolla is an active member of many important groups working on the Covid crisis, including the Canadian Water Network COVID-19 National Research Advisory Group, the Canadian Water Network COVID-19 Wastewater Coalition’s Ontario Hub and he is currently the co-moderator of the CanCOVID Slack forum.
A Research Student’s Point of View
Patrick D’Aoust, a PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering, has been working with Prof. Delatolla since 2014, right after he completed his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering. Patrick expressed how rewarding his experience has been:
“I really enjoy working with Dr. Delatolla on his research projects – the projects are always very applicable to the real world and to real world problems, and he always pushes us to surpass ourselves at every turn. I’m certain that I’ll finish my graduate studies a much stronger researcher thanks to him.”