City of Missoula, MT

Clark Fork River. Photo by Emma Smith on Unsplash

In October of 2020, Archer Biologicals, LLC began weekly testing of municipal wastewater for the city of Missoula, Montana for SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Archer will report weekly viral presence and abundance. Archer uses innovative techniques established in the Seth Walk Lab at Montana State University. Archer is based in Bozeman, MT and deeply cares about the health of fellow Montanans.

Technical Information

Individuals infected with SARS-CoV2, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, can shed virus in their stool. Archer Biologicals tests for the presence and quantity of SARS-CoV2 in wastewater using commercial kits approved by the CDC. Wastewater is disinfected and viral particles are concentrated. RNA is extracted from viral particles and reverse-transcribed to generate cDNA prior to quantitative PCR. Samples below a Ct of 40 are considered positive. Genome concentration is estimated using a standard curve generated with a commercially available positive control at known concentration. Wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV2 is a novel and developing technology. Virus concentration may fluctuate depending on flow rates, flow volumes, and other factors. Lack of viral signal in wastewater may not mean a complete absence of infections, however the presence of signal in wastewater certainly is due to an infected user at the time of collection.

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