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Tracking COVID-19 on Campus Through Sewage Surveillance

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September 10, 2020

Tracking COVID-19 on Campus Through Sewage Surveillance

NORMAN, OKLA. – University of Oklahoma researchers are testing wastewater samples on campus as a method to detect COVID-19 infections on campus. Led by associate professor of microbiology, Bradley Stevenson, the project builds on similar work being done across the country.

“The data from this study can provide an early warning of outbreaks, at least three days before reported illnesses and seven days before hospitalizations begin,” Stevenson said. “This is valuable, otherwise inaccessible lead time that could be used to stem further transmission. This data will also capture pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals who would otherwise avoid detection.”

Campus wastewater is being tested daily from multiple areas on the Norman campus to identify any specific areas with higher concentrations of positive cases.

Randy Hewes, dean of the Graduate College and professor of biology, said, “the goal is for OU to be better able to identify areas that are potentially experiencing higher levels of infection to allow us to respond appropriately with follow up testing and other mitigation efforts.”

The project is a collaboration between multiple campus departments, public health agencies and the Oklahoma Water Survey. For more information, please contact Stevenson at