Inside SUNY Upstate Medical’s increasingly popular COVID-19 testing labs

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — SUNY Upstate Medical University continues to be at the forefront in testing and surveilling for COVID-19.

The lab’s wastewater testing program is growing in popularity as a way to pinpoint and then trace possible cases of COVID-19.

SUNY Schools have been using it more and more as the number of COVID-19 cases rise on various State College campuses.

“It’s a great way to screen without using a lot of resources,” says SUNY Upstate University Hospital CEO Dr. Robert Corona.

Wastewater has been shown to be a leading indicator of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the population.

Dr. Corona tells NewsChannel 9, “You look for viral particles in the wastewater, makes you suspicious that someone using that facility, somebody has it, then you can restrict who you test.”

Someone collects samples of untreated wastewater from different spots of a particular system and ships them to the Syracuse lab.

It’s usefulness in predicting diagnostic testing and contact tracing needs.

Genetic material, RNA, of the virus causing the disease, SARS-CoV-2, could be detected in the feces of up to 40 percent of infected individuals, even those who are asymptomatic.

Although wastewater is not believed to be a viable source of disease transmission, this provided a strong indication that the genetic signal could potentially be detected in wastewater.

Tracking infectious disease transmission through wastewater was used decades ago to track the transmission and eradication of poliovirus.

“For example, in Oneonta, this dorm had a higher level of COVID, or this floor of this dorm had a higher level of COVID,” says Quadrant Chief Operating Officer Bryan Greene.

The work going on in the SUNY Upstate lab is a public-private collaboration between the State hospital, SUNY ESF, Syracuse University and Quadrant.

The governor, last month, announced New York State will commit $500,000 to support expanding wastewater sampling happening in Onondaga County and start sample collection in three additional communities: Albany, Newburgh and Buffalo.

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