Federal Councilor Alain Berset wants in-depth examination
Will the wastewater be tested for even more viruses in the future?
Wastewater monitoring was an important tool during the Corona crisis to assess the course of infection. The Health Commission is now calling for it to be extended to other pathogens. The Federal Council gives the green light.
Published: 10 minutes ago
Federal Councilor Alain Berset wants to examine whether wastewater monitoring should be expanded.
Ruedi StuderBundeshaus Editor
Since the beginning of the year there has been an end to free corona tests. They are only paid on medical orders. With consequences: The test numbers have collapsed. At the end of 2022, over 60,000 people were still being tested for the corona virus every week, but now there are fewer than 20,000. The number of cases has recently fallen to less than 1000 confirmed new infections per week.
One thing is clear: Based on the number of tests and infections, the development of the pandemic can no longer be reliably assessed. Instead, wastewater monitoring has become a crucial factor. “Since the special situation was lifted in April 2022, the assessment of the relative viral load from the wastewater has gained in importance,” said Simon Ming from the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) recently Blick. And: “National wastewater monitoring will continue to play a central role in the assessment of Sars-Cov2 and other pathogens in the future.”
Wastewater monitoring is considered a magic trick for the early detection of infection. The Federal Council has now also acquired a taste for this. He gave the go-ahead to an initiative from the National Council Health Commission, which wanted to institutionalize wastewater monitoring and sequencing.
Federal Council examines expansion
As part of the revision of the Epidemics Act, the Federal Council should examine “whether it wouldn’t make sense to expand the examination of wastewater for Sars-Cov-2 and other pathogens in order to be able to detect and monitor communicable diseases at an early stage and to be able to sequence the wastewater samples regularly”. the health politicians. She also thinks of polio, flu or monkeypox viruses.
An early warning system for the detection and monitoring of pathogens contributes to the safety of Switzerland. “It is only a matter of time before the next pandemic breaks out,” says the Health Commission. The Covid 19 crisis has shown the great potential of monitoring. “Thanks to an early warning system with wastewater monitoring – including sequencing – lives can be saved and consequential costs for the economy avoided.”
Monitoring also has a concrete benefit outside of crises. “Switzerland could use wastewater to monitor antibiotic resistance or chemical contamination, for example,” argues the commission.
In doing so, she pushed open doors. Health Minister Alain Berset (50) is ready in his answer for an “in-depth” examination.
National Fund project started
In fact, epidemiologists have high hopes for wastewater monitoring and are already examining other pathogens. For example, the water research institute Eawag also monitors the two flu viruses, influenza A and B, and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) via wastewater samples.
And a team led by biostatistician Tanja Stadler (42) from ETH Zurich wants to expand the monitoring in a National Fund project to include other pathogens – such as noroviruses and other diarrheal pathogens – in addition to corona and influenza.
This also benefits the federal government. “We will pass on findings from wastewater-based epidemiology directly to the Federal Office of Public Health, which is responsible for epidemics, and the relevant decision-makers,” says the project description. “Thus we offer a further data-supported basis for health policy decisions for the aspects monitored here.”
SVP opposes this
The project could also be the basis for a Switzerland-wide monitoring system in wastewater-based epidemiology. The Health Commission is also thinking about this. “The current research project could serve as a scientific basis for the expansion of wastewater monitoring,” according to the commission.
However, the initiative still has to be approved by the National Council. Even if a minority of SVP and partly FDP in the commission opposed the postulate, a yes from parliament should be a formality.
Visiting the sewage treatment plant: Nice sh…..!(01:37)