Toronto startup, Virdect, pioneers major advance in Covid-19 detection
New method provides advance warning, precise geotargeting, for huge potential savings in cost and lives
TORONTO, Sept. 29, 2020 /CNW/ - Toronto startup Virdect announced today that it is pioneering a new system for detecting Covid-19 that has enormous implications for identifying outbreaks and containing them quickly. Using wastewater as a testing bed, Virdect is able to detect the virus up to seven days before carriers show symptoms. And unlike other wastewater-testing technology, Virdect achieves an extraordinary level of geographic precision—with dramatic implications for everything from public health to school attendance and condominium maintenance.
The key distinguishing feature of Virdect is its site-specific testing technology. Other wastewater testing systems are designed for mass-scale sampling—wastewater plants, for example, which collect samples from hundreds of thousands of people. Virdect leapfrogs these systems by collecting samples upstream, at specific sites such as condo buildings, schools and long-term care facilities. Testing and communication of results are completed within 48 hours.
"Wastewater testing has been hailed recently by public health authorities and research scientists as "an early warning system" for Covid-19 detection," notes Dave Oswald, Founder of Virdect. "We think of ourselves as "an even earlier warning system." Virdect is so much closer to the precise location of an outbreak—potentially even down to a specific floor on a condo building—that we can advance an isolation schedule by days. In the case of an epidemic like Covid-19, that translates into massive savings in lives and money."
The implications of Virdect's technology become immediately apparent by examining the trajectory of the current pandemic. A study from Columbia University in May of this year estimated that the United States could have saved 36,000 lives if it had started social distancing one week earlier than it did. Early detection also allows more moderate, geographically limited lockdowns, thereby reducing the impact on the economy.
"Wastewater testing is a brilliant answer to the problem of detection," continues Oswald. "It draws on a steady, reliable source that captures everyone. And it detects shedding long before carriers even have a clue that they're infected. But testing wastewater at municipal facilities suffers from a major drawback: by aggregating the results of hundreds of thousands of people, it provides data that is too general to allow immediate action. That is not the case with Virdect. By testing wastewater upstream at the building level, Virdect obtains results for a very small community—allowing for the subsequent identification of carriers through targeted nasal or oral swabbing, all while maintaining privacy. As a result, the system delivers virus heat mapping that is more exact by several orders of magnitude. For public health authorities—not to mention residents of Virdect-monitored buildings—it's a massive leap forward in virus containment."
Virdect boasts a number of features that make it a true leader in virus testing:
- Privacy: While Virdect can identify the presence of a virus in a specific building (or even floor), it does so without compromising anonymity
- Compliance rate: As a passive collection system, Virdect attains 100% testing compliance
- Cost: Virdect can test a whole building for a fraction of the cost of nasal or saliva swabs
- Continuity: Virdect can test at any frequency desired (such as daily) for an indefinite period—something that is impossible with swabs
- Reliability: Virdect's stringent laboratory testing ensures accurate results within 48 hours
- Private-sector value: Unlike mass-wastewater testing solutions, Virdects' First AlerterTM solution can be implemented in individual buildings, such as schools, condos and long-term-care facilities
- Community safety: By aggregating test results from building clusters, Virdect can create heat maps that can guide containment procedures
Virdect is launching a pilot program in the Greater Toronto Area, with a focus on schools, senior-care facilities and condominiums/apartments.
Founded in 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the Company's vision is to use science in the service of society to enable people to live safely in their homes and communities. Its mission is to be the 'First Alerter' to the presence of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, through science-driven, forensic-based technology focused on wastewater testing.
In an epidemic, every day counts.
SOURCE Virdect Ltd