In response to the increase in Covid cases in China and the lifting of travel restrictions imposed by the country as of 8 January, the Ministry of Health contacted the LIST Coronastep team in order to detect possible variants in the airport wastewater. The team's first report is reassuring: to date, no new variants (or mutations) of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected.
In view of the rapid progression of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections in China since December 2022, the European Union's Health Security Committee published an opinion on 5 January 2023, defining a coordinated European approach, progressive in steps, and proportional to the health threat. In particular, the Committee recommends that EU countries introduce and/or strengthen monitoring of wastewater, especially in water originating from airports with international flights and/or aircraft following long-haul flights, with particular attention to passenger flights from China.
With this in mind, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) was contacted by the Inspection Sanitaire to monitor the wastewater at Luxembourg airport, in order to detect any possible viral variants introduced by a traveller as early as possible. "A collection point was added to the sewage system in the airport area. This point collects both the wastewater from the Findel terminal and the tanks that the planes pour into the network when they arrive on the tarmac," explains Leslie Ogorzaly, coordinator of the Coronastep project. "Samples are taken once a week. What matters afterwards is mainly to identify the variants present in the samples and to highlight the possible appearance of new mutations that could lead to the appearance of new variants," she continues. The detection of circulating variants is carried out at LIST, while the high-throughput sequencing, which allows the search for new mutations, is carried out by the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS) coupled with a bioinformatics analysis by the LIST team.
For nearly three years, LIST researchers, through the Coronastep project, have been tracking the presence of coronavirus in the wastewater of the Grand Duchy, in order to provide a detailed view of the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic. Using a highly sensitive methodology, the LIST team of microbiologists identifies where, when, and in what concentration the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is present. Complementary to large-scale clinical tests, these near-real-time results are delivered to the government every two weeks for informed decision-making.