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Thessaloniki Wastewater Shows Alarming Spike in Viral Load

Thessaloniki Viral load
The city of Thessaloniki is experiencing an enormous increase in the viral load in its wastewater at present. Credit: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, CC BY 2.0, Wikipedia

Researchers from Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University on Tuesday announced that they had discovered an alarming spike in the amount of coronavirus detected in the city’s wastewater.

This measurement, which tracks the presence of the virus in the population as a whole, is thought to represent a more complete picture of the spread of the virus since it does not reflect the number of people presenting themselves for testing, but rather the real presence of the contagion.

Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city After the capital of Athens, with a population of approximately 315,000.

70% spike from February 8 — 14

The concentration of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the head of the team, Nikos Papaioannou, who is also rector of the city’s Aristotle University, spiked 70% over the week between February 8 and 14.

Contrary to recent testing figures reported daily, which are decreasing after a disturbing post-holiday increase, the sudden spike in the viral content was detected after a steady increase of the virus in wastewater recently.

Papaioannou stated to AMNA on Tuesday that “Our most recent measurements have shown a steep rise in the epidemiological curve.

“Of course, if we compare the latest weekly average to that of January 18-21, to the period after Christmas when we were at our lowest level, the viral load is up by 345% today. Compared with the autumn wave, we are now at a level similar to late October, just before the start of November’s spike in transmission,” the Aristotle University rector added.

Daily sampling to help prevent another surge in cases

Papaioannou that his team, which coordinates its research with the Thessaloniki Water and Sewerage Company, has increased its analyses of the city’s wastewater. It is now taking daily samples — instead of weekly — in an effort to help prevent the kind of explosion in cases seen in the country last November.

Symeon Metallidis, an epidemiology professor at Aristotle University, who also works at Thessaloniki’s AHEAP Hospital, warned that “The rise we have been seeing since the start of the month in the wastewater, will become apparent in the next few weeks at hospitals.”

Metallidis, who also serves on the committee of experts advising the Greek government on its handling of the pandemic, explained that “Wastewater gives us a timely diagnosis, a picture of what we will see later clinically. The methodology is very well targeted and reliable.”

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