CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A reliable way to test for COVID-19 is expanding, going beyond the respiratory virus to other viruses and diseases.
North Carolina state health officials recently noted a reappearance of Mpox cases. Mpox, also known as monkeypox, was nearly eradicated last year after vaccines for the virus became widely available. State officials noted the confirmed case counts are extremely low, but noted that the wastewater testing shows the reality across the state on various ailments.
Some of the research into expanding the wastewater testing has been done at UNC Charlotte.
“[Wastewater testing is] about the only window right now that public health has been looking into in terms of what strains of virus are circulating in the community,” said Dr. Cynthia Gibas with UNC Charlotte.
The testing research has come with some demand.
“We’re hearing…’we want to know more about more viruses,” she said.
The recent Mpox findings led state health officials to call for vaccinations for those who are at high risk of exposure to the virus.
The research, however, is expanding towards other viruses and diseases. State health officials said that influenza and RSV tests are currently in development.
Dr. Mariya Munir with UNC Charlotte noted the future is coming sooner than people realize on the wastewater testing front, with new technology.
“Were specifically looking for gene markers when we sample the wastewater and extract the RNA,” Dr. Munir explained about the process, who noted that the testing will not show every type of virus or disease in wastewater. Testing is limited to the tests that exist for various viruses and diseases.
“There are a lot of technologies coming up,” said Dr. Munir. “A lot of people are doing research in this area.”