Ohio University

Next Science Cafe focuses on wastewater as a COVID-19 early warning system

Published: February 18, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University's Science Café series begins its spring lineup with Karen Coschigano and Guy Riefler discussing “Wastewater: A COVID-19 Early Warning System” on Feb. 24 at 5 p.m.

The talk can be viewed on YouTube or on Facebook.

At the beginning of the spring semester, Coschigano, associate professor of biomedical sciences, and Riefler, professor of civil engineering, began implementing a new early warning system to give Ohio University another tool to detect COVID outbreaks.

In this Science Café, Coschigano and Riefler will take everyone on a “field trip” into a sewer manhole to see the sample collection process. They will then explore the tremendous power and versatility of molecular biology techniques used to better understand, detect and combat COVID.

Infected individuals shed coronavirus 7 to 14 days before they begin to show symptoms. Riefler and his team of students, in collaboration with Facilities Management and Safety, have been collecting wastewater from University sewers fed by residence halls.

Using molecular biology, Coschigano extracts RNA from these wastewater composite samples, finds RNA sequences that match the coronavirus, and measures how many copies of the virus are present. Regular testing is allowing the University to monitor coronavirus levels and predict locations of outbreak and spread. Coupled with the University’s ongoing COVID testing program for students, the University hopes to keep the University and greater community safer.

The series is supported by the Ohio University Research Division and Ohio University Chapter of Sigma Xi. For more information visit the Science Cafe website.

Spring Science Café Schedule

Wed. Feb. 24: Karen Coschigano, Assoc. Professor, Biomedical Sciences and Guy Riefler, Professor, Civil Engineering, “Wastewater: A COVID-19 Early Warning System.”

Wed. March 17: Dustin Grooms, Associate Professor, Physical Therapy

Wed. March 24: Pete Harrington, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Fall 2020 Science Cafe Schedule

Links to these virtual events will be posted several days before the event on the Science Cafe website and on the Ohio University Calendar.

Sept. 2: Athens City-County Health Department, "College with COVID:  One Community, One Mission."Watch on YouTube.

Sept. 16: Rob Brannan, Professor of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness. | Watch on YouTube.

Oct. 5: Witmer Lab, (Larry Witmer, Professor of Biomedical Sciences and his lab). | Watch on YouTube.

Oct. 21: Paul Benedict, Director of Center for Entrepreneurship. | Watch on YouTube.

Nov. 16: Geoff Dabelko, Professor of Environmental Studies. | Watch on YouTube.

Nov. 18: Nathan Weyand, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences, "Antibiotic Resistance and Protective Blood."