European scientists are testing new wastewater surveillance methods that could spot the next COVID-19 variant.

Austrian scientists have developed a new method of analysing wastewater that can tell which COVID-19 variants are present and how abundant they are. 

Previous methods of wastewater sampling were unable to achieve this, they say. 

A team from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria has analysed 3,413 wastewater samples representing 94 areas of the country, covering nearly two-thirds of the population, and compared them with around 300,000 individual case reports to confirm their findings. 

Their new system, called VaQuERo (variant quantification in sewage pipeline designed for robustness), allowed them to deduce the abundance of COVID-19 variants in space and time. 

They also found that as the Delta variant emerged in Austria, viral genetic diversity detected in wastewater increased, suggesting the method could be used to predict the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.

More details are accessible here.