Tracking of COvid – 19 in the urban wastewater of Athens by EKPA


Urban wastewater “reveals” the course of the spread of the pandemic and records the course of the pandemic 3-4 days before the symptoms become apparent to a person and therefore much earlier than the statistics recorded on the basis of controls and reported cases.

Team of researchers from Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Athens carries out continuous measurements in the urban wastewater of the capital and records the traces of the presence of covid-19 as well as the increasing trend of the last months.

“Sewage is the imprint of our daily lives. Anything we use through metabolism or directly, because we discard it, ends in Psyttalia. Through the analyzes we do, we distinguish the drugs we have taken or the uses of banned substances but also changes in the way of consuming substances from week to week. It’s something we do for 11 years systematically. “There is a specific period that we do sampling, some neutral weeks between March and April” says Mr. Nikos Thomaidis Professor of the National Kapodistrian University of Athens and head of research which is conducted, as he says, in collaboration with EYDAP.

The traces of covid

“We are currently monitoring and analyzing weighted 24-hour samples in Psyttalia and see if there is a positive or negative detection of the virus. We have an image and trends. There was an increase in July and continues in August “says Mr. Thomaidis in the show”A day in Athens”(7/9/20) while clarifying that:“ we will not say percentage ”…

Early warning

“It is a practice that started internationally in March in specific centers dealing with sewage epidemiology. We all tried together to detect traces of the corona in the sewage as a tool of early warning. The viral load may appear much earlier, 3-4 days before the person shows symptoms. If, for example, sewage is monitored in an area, it is very easy, through this analysis, for someone, EODY, to see, for example, that we have the beginning of a wave before the symptoms appear well in the world, ”explains the professor of EKPA.

Focus on nursing homes and hotels

However, the methodology and the control of the sewage can be utilized in “closed structures” and with the appearance of traces of covid19 it is possible the immediate intervention of the competent bodies of the State.

“This is very important for structures such as nursing homes, hotels, or cruise ships. It is much easier instead of checking on one person, taking a sample and seeing if the structure shows traces of the virus in the waste“Says Mr. Thomaidis and adds that if there is a positive record or an upward trend, the competent services can immediately carry out checks. This feature has not yet been implemented.

“It is a discussion we have had with EODY and the Ministry of Health. We have suggested it many times“but it has not been implemented yet and I think it should be implemented because we will actually prevent situations and things”.

The period of “quarantine”

The first major data processing took place during the lockdown period, when the general population (and) in Attica was compulsorily at home. It was during this period that the use of paracetamol, hydroxychloroquine, and antidepressants was launched.

“What happened this year is that the sampling period coincided with the pick of the first wave in our country. It was very interesting to see comparatively what chemicals we used all this time of the lockdown compared to 2019. The changes were impressive. Huge increase in antiviral drugs and the cocktail of the compounds we detected as a result of the use of substances that were not common in previous years, such as antivirals for HIV, must have been used to treat covid19 ″ ″ explains Mr. Nikos Thomaidis. “The big increase was in hydroxychloroquine over 380%. We have also seen an increase in certain antibiotics, an increase in paracetamol, especially after the recommendation of EODY. We saw but increase in antidepressants and sedatives. Similar to that of the first period of the financial year (2012-2014) ”

George Apostolidis


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