Stony Brook University scientists study sewers to detect COVID clusters on Long Island

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — Scientists from Stony Brook University on Long Island are looking at sewers to help study the coronavirus.

Stony Brook University professor and scientist Chris Gobler explains they are specifically looking at stool samples from sewers across Suffolk County.

He tells WCBS 880 that even if a person is asymptomatic, or not yet displaying symptoms, the virus can live in that person’s body – and also in their excrement.

“We work with sewage treatment plant operators and they actually have devices that collect what are called composite samples that are collecting a little bit of water every hour, over a 24 hour period, so in that case, we just get to pick up the samples,” Gobler explains.

He says to test for the virus at Stony Brook University, he and his team will actually go down into the sewer on campus and collect samples manually. Gobler says they have been taking every precaution necessary to do so.

It doesn’t sound glamourous, but Gobler says the stool samples are a great way to detect the virus in Long Island communities if people are not being regularly tested.

“We're going to be monitoring the Stony Brook University dormitories to give the university a sense if there's any infections that are going on,” he explains.

Gobler says it’s vital to study the college community, especially, because many young people remain asymptomatic with COVID-19.

“There actually could be an outbreak and people might not even know it, but this would actually pick it up,” he explains.

He notes that future outbreaks of the flu could be studied this way.

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