LuminUltra has filed a patent for a complete, rapid, and on-site COVID-19 wastewater testing solution that aims to make non-invasive community health assessment far more accessible.

According to the company, the solution is a direct result of a research collaboration between LuminUltra, Dalhousie University, and Halifax Water. Scientists from LuminUltra and Dalhousie University collaborated to assess real-world wastewater samples provided by Halifax Water in order to refine and improve the process needed to prepare a sample for accurate wastewater testing.

“Halifax Water is proud to be a partner in this important wastewater research, which aligns well with our focus on public health and environmental protection,” said Cathie O’Toole, general manager of Halifax Water. “This collaboration is an extension of our history of supporting and fostering innovative research in water and wastewater. Halifax and other communities are looking for monitoring solutions to reliably gather information about population health and effectively control the spread of COVID-19.”

According to LuminUltra, the innovation in the RNA extraction and concentration process resulting from the team’s research has eliminated the need for additional complicated equipment. The company indicates that this simplifies the process from sample collection to result while increasing accuracy and consistency of results.

“The idea of wastewater surveillance testing has been advocated by researchers around the world since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Pat Whalen, president and chief executive officer of LuminUltra. “Until now, wastewater testing has been complicated, expensive, and time consuming—meaning the potentially life-saving technique was reserved for niche subgroups under the watchful eye of researchers. We have been determined to make this surveillance tool more accessible to communities everywhere, allowing for a game-changing early warning of COVID-19 infections.”

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The presence of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen can be detected in human waste of infected individuals—even in asymptomatic or presymptomatic patients. LuminUltra’s wastewater testing solution utilizes the rapid and portable GeneCount® qPCR device, the same industry gold-standard technology used in clinical diagnostic testing.

“Public health leaders around the world have validated that wastewater testing is a powerful tool in the fight against the pandemic, and global research leaders have demonstrated the benefits of testing human waste in controlled populations,” said Dr. Amina Stoddart of Dalhousie University.

“Wastewater testing has been shown to lead to early identification of the virus before it is known in a clinical context—the potential benefit could help Public Health leaders with additional information for decisions concerning the pandemic,” added Stoddart. “We are very pleased to continue Dalhousie’s long-standing research relationship with LuminUltra to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Halifax and beyond.”

While other solutions around the world can take days or weeks and require specialized lab expertise to analyze a mailed-in sample, LuminUltra indicates that its solution examines multiple samples onsite within 90 minutes without the need for specific testing expertise.

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