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Conventional Wastewater Treatment Does Not Eliminate the Risk of Coronavirus Spreading

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL / AGILITYPR.NEWS / October 19, 2020 / Press Release

Conventional Wastewater Treatment Does Not Eliminate the Risk of Coronavirus Spreading, Ben-Gurion University Researchers Find


BGU team first to assess COVID-19 in a country’s wastewater


BEER-SHEVA, Israel, October 19, 2020 -- Wastewater must be treated beyond the conventional scheme in order to eliminate the new coronavirus, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers have found in the first study of SARS-CoV-2 survivability via RNA detection within sewage purification plants worldwide.

Their findings were just uploaded to the preprint archive medRxiv and will be undergoing peer review shortly.

Wastewater poses another threat of a renewed outbreak. Sewage workers are exposed to the virus through human feces and urine. If wastewater is left untreated, which occurs in some countries, it could infect people or animals who come into contact with it and perhaps create a mutated version. It could also affect water sources if sewage is dumped in open areas.

In Israel, wastewater is collected, treated and then reused for agriculture. The BGU team analyzed samples of sewage collected during the first lockdown in April and during the second wave in July. They found ample abundance of the virus’s RNA. Most of the sewage in Israel and other developed countries undergoes biological treatment before release to the environment or reuse, however that was insufficient to reduce the virus concentration to undetectable levels, the researchers found.

Therefore, they urge wastewater to be further treated to minimize the risk of dissemination and infection. In a couple of instances where wastewater was treated by chlorine, the virus was no longer detectable.

“If we do not want recurring waves of outbreaks, reducing the infection rate may not be enough, wastewater must be neutralized as well,” says co-lead researcher Dr. Oded Nir of the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, part of the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research at BGU. Prof. Ariel Kushmaro of the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering co-lead the study as well.

Additional researchers included: Hala Abu Ali, Karin Yaniv, Dr. Edo Bar-Zeev, Sanhita Chaudhury, Marilou Shaga, Satish Lakkakula, and Prof. Zeev Ronen.

Click here for high resolution photo of Dr. Oded Nir

Photo Credit: Dani Machlis/BGU

The photo may only be used in the context of articles about this research study or researcher


About Us

About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) is the fastest growing research university in Israel. With 20,000 students, 4,000 staff and faculty members, and three campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sde Boker and Eilat, BGU is an agent of change, fulfilling the vision of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s legendary first prime minister, who envisaged the future of Israel emerging from the Negev. 


The University is at the heart of Beer-Sheva's transformation into an innovation district, where leading multinational corporations eagerly leverage BGU’s expertise to generate innovative R&D.

BGU effects change, locally, regionally and internationally. With faculties in Engineering Sciences; Health Sciences; Natural Sciences; Humanities and Social Sciences; Business and Management; and Desert Studies, the University is a recognized national and global leader in many fields, actively encouraging multi-disciplinary collaborations with government and industry, and nurturing entrepreneurship and innovation in all its forms. 


BGU is also a university with a conscience, active both on the frontiers of science and in the community. Over a third of our students participate in one of the world's most developed community action programs.


For more information, visit the BGU website.


Ehud Zion Waldoks

Deputy Spokesperson, International Media


Phone: 972-54-677-5564