CryptoRelief contributes 1Mn to IIT Madras for research

These funds will lead to the introduction of wastewater-based epidemiological research to combat epidemics.

CryptoRelief, an initiative started by Sandeep Nailwal, has sanctioned 1 million for setting up a wastewater-based epidemiological research facility at IIT Madras. The facility will act as an intelligence unit to track and prevent the spread of the virus at an early stage. These grants will help us to better prepare ourselves while furthering research and gaining an insight into the type of virus that is always evolving.

The global outbreak of Covid 19 disease in 2019 calls for a better understanding of population health in order to predict and control the spread of the disease, whether it is an epidemic or a local one.

Waste water carries molecules that relate to what people take in and how their health changes. At the personal or family level, toilet waste can say a lot about the user. For a city, the sewer provides information about the health of its inhabitants. Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is a way of understanding this and can be considered as mining of chemical information from sewage.

Clinical data on viral infections from a large population rely on extensive sample collection and are generally limited to symptom reporting. In a densely populated city, it is difficult to monitor and control the spread of the disease through clinical data alone.

People infected with the virus throw many virus particles into the sewer before the symptoms begin. Therefore, a spike in the number of infected people and a new form of the virus can be found much earlier than the clinical report. Scientists around the world are beginning to employ wastewater analysis as an efficient and cost-effective method for assessing the dynamics of viruses in populations. Several scientific methods are being developed to quickly decode messages carried by sewers.

In addition to SARS Cov-2, several other pathogens in the population can be identified through wastewater analysis. Analysis techniques include polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) and mass spectrometry (MS), combined with data analysis.

In this CryptoRelief-funded project, data from various wastewater sources and treatment facilities will be analyzed and made available to the public through the Dashboard. Gradually, this facility will be extended to other regions of India. The new human resources developed in the area will be useful in setting up such facilities all over the country.

The benefits of wastewater analysis are endless, including the fingerprint of water for studying chemical and biological molecules. The WBE project includes tracking of pollutants, pesticides, legal and illegal drugs, with which the population is exposed. WBE will also be tasked with identifying emerging issues of concern, such as increased antimicrobial resistance due to overuse of antibiotics. Identifying the right policies for controlling pharmaceuticals and personal care products will be invaluable in improving public health.

The ICCW team will work with appropriate modeling tools to create a hydro-informatics platform for the city to provide spatial information from data obtained from the WBE study.

ICCW is developing state-of-the-art technology for affordable pure water. Creating a reliable platform for periodic analysis of wastewater will ensure better water protection for the community.

IITM and ICCW envisage providing practical solutions for building a healthy country through WBE.

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