Manila Water readies lab for virus detection in wastewater

MANILA Water Co., Inc. announced on Tuesday that it plans to build a molecular laboratory for wastewater surveillance over SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“The project is part of the company’s COVID-19 response and is aimed to detect and quantify the SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines that are efficient in amplifying small segments of DNA or RNA. These data will be complementary to the current clinical testing and reports of confirmed positive cases,” Manila Water Laboratory Services Head Joannatess B. De Vera said in a statement.

The company’s first molecular laboratory is expected to be completed before month’s end and will be ready to operate by June 2022.

Ms. De Vera said the facility would expand the capacity of Manila Water’s laboratory services to detect SARS-CoV-2 virus in its wastewater treatment systems and generate data for public health use.

The project aims to help communities have access to the technique and technology in tracking local outbreaks of COVID-19 or what is called wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE).

“[The] data to be generated in this molecular lab can help communities formulate actions in mitigating COVID-19 in its early stages of emergence or re-emergence as WBE can detect the virus even before people show symptoms,” Manila Water Research and Development Head Emmanuel Jimenez said.

Mr. Jimenez said that since wastewater samples contain waste from numerous individuals, the community will have access to a cost and time-efficient screening approach to determine the level of infection not only of COVID-19 but other possible emerging and future threats.

“The new facility will support the current efforts of the different local government units to address this pandemic. Operating the molecular laboratory also allows the company to provide services beyond its regular wastewater treatment and operations,” Manila Water added.

Manila Water provides water treatment, sewerage and sanitation, distribution services, and management services to residential, commercial, and industrial customers in the East Concession Zone. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson