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Monkeypox, polio tracing to utilize COVID-19 wastewater expertise

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The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is monitoring wastewater at 25 sites in 13 Canadian cities for COVID-19 and monkeypox. Photo credit: Felipe Caparrós, stock.adobe.com

Many communities across Canada that continue to track the spread of COVID-19 in wastewater have begun to use the same surveillance infrastructure created during the pandemic to keep tabs on monkeypox and potential traces of polio.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) states that more than 1,400 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed across the country since the spring. The virus causes fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes and tiredness, followed by a rash and blisters on the skin.

Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is performing diagnostic testing for the virus that causes monkeypox, as well as whole genome sequencing, and enhanced fingerprint analysis, on Canadian samples of monkeypox, PHAC states.

In the U.S., more than 41 communities are analyzing wastewater in 10 states for monkeypox. The joint project between several universities has so far detected the monkeypox virus in 22 of those sites.

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A national team is monitoring wastewater at 25 sites in 13 Canadian cities for COVID-19 and monkeypox. PHAC has also stated that “key high-risk municipalities” in Canada could soon see wastewater testing expanded to include polio, as was the case in the 1940s. That move could determine whether polio was present prior to recently reported international cases.

No cases of polio, meanwhile, have been reported in Canada for more than 25 years, despite a small presence in New York state and the U.K. last month. In three of the affected counties in New York, polio vaccination rates hover around 60%.

In a press conference last month that addressed polio, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said PHAC is looking into using wastewater to track antimicrobial resistant organisms and monitor the growth of bacteria that doesn’t respond to antibiotics.

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