Paper-Based Device Trace COVID-19

Rapid Wastewater Testing Kits Can Determine Potential COVID-19 Carriers Interview with:
Dr Zhugen Yang

Lecturer in Sensor Technology
NERC Fellow
School of Water, Energy and Environment
Cranfield University What is the background for this study?

Response: A recent outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection has spread rapidly around the globe. Some clinical cases have found that some carriers of the virus may be asymptomatic, with no fever, and no, or only slight symptoms of infection. Currently we have a constrained diagnostic testing capacity, Therefore wastewater analysis, also namely wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), may offer another way to track the spread of the virus that causes the disease and identify the potential infections at the community.

Wastewater-based epidemiology approach could provide an effective and rapid way to predict the potential spread of novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) by picking up on biomarkers in faeces and urine from disease carriers that enter the sewer system. WBE is already recognised as an effective way to trace illicit drugs and obtain information on health, disease, and pathogens 

Paper-Based Device Trace COVID-19

Paper-Based Device Trace COVID-19 What are the main findings?

Response: We have already developed a paper device for testing genetic material in wastewater for proof-of-concept, and this provides clear potential to test for infection with adaption. More importantly, this device is cheap (costing less than £1) and will be easy to use for non-experts after further improvement.

Rapid testing kits using paper-based devices with simple visual analysis could be used on-site at wastewater treatment plants to trace sources and determine whether there are potential COVID-19 carriers in local areas. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: If COVID-19 can be monitored in a community at an early stage through wastewater-based epidemiology, effective intervention can be taken as early as possible to restrict the movements of that local population, working to minimise the pathogen spread and threat to public health. We foresee that the device will be able to offer a complete and immediate picture of population health once this sensor can be deployed in the near future. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The paper-based device has the potential to be used as a small, portable device to detect SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater on site and to track virus carriers in the community. Such an approach could provide near real-time and continuous data and serve as an early warning sensing system to help local governments and agencies make effective interventions to isolate potential virus carriers and prevent the spread of epidemics.

We believe that in the case of asymptomatic infections in the community or people are not sure whether they are infected or not, rapid and real-time community sewage detection through paper analytical devices can determine whether there are SARS-CoV-2 carriers in the area in a timely manner to enable rapid screening, quarantine, and prevention. Potentially this can be used as a routine tool for early warning of infection at the community. Further research shall focus on the development of more low-cost, easy-to-use testing method to facilitate rapid diagnosis from both individual and population level. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: There is a prototype of the paper sensors- which can be used as a viral impression on the device. Or more information can be found from or


Kang Mao, Hua Zhang, Zhugen Yang. Can a Paper-Based Device Trace COVID-19 Sources with Wastewater-Based Epidemiology? Environmental Science & Technology, 2020; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c01174


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May 12, 2020 @ 1:57 am 

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