When a memo from the DGS, sealed with “Urgent”, on the “strategy to slow the spread” of variants of the Coronavirus fell on February 7, Professor Yves Poisson sighed. “We’re making the same mistakes again,” laments the head of the covid-19 cell at the Academy of Medicine.
A great advantage, especially in the face of more contagious variants
Now, any positive Covid test must be retested within 36 hours, the note states. Target ? Determine if contamination is by one of the species (English, South African or Brazilian, much more contagious, Editor’s note). “This is not the correct method,” says Professor Poisson. “When we have this information, it is already too late. This means that the virus has already circulated for several days or weeks …”.
If Professor Poisson is upset, it’s because, in his eyes, there is a “very reliable” way not to be left behind: to check for the virus in wastewater. The principle is simple: any infected person, by going to the toilet, and even before symptoms finally appear, will excrete the decomposing virus, which will end up in wastewater … as a team of French researchers was created from the start. March 5, 2020 and the United in the (Obépine Network of Epidemiological Observatory of Wastewater), knows how to discover it.
The second wave was detected two months ago
The benefit of this method is twofold. A: It is an early detection device (including those without symptoms). “In Ile-de-France, we discovered the beginnings of the second wave in July, two months earlier, while other indicators (hospitalization rate, calls to 15 doctors and SOS, etc.) did not reveal anything,” explains Vincent Marichel, research professor at Virology (Research Center Sorbonne and Saint Antoine) and one of the founders of Obépine.
Second: It is more flexible and simpler to implement, and “more expensive” than the population test (currently, 250 euros per sample and per site). A hole of 10ml to 30ml of sewage is sufficient to measure pollution in basins of thousands to several hundreds of thousands of residents, depending on the size of the plant.
Surgical strike or napalm?
Almost everything is ready, and the network is just waiting for the green light, funding, to integrate costly definition (sequence) of the variables. “It is the best predictive sign. It will make it possible to quickly take the measures most appropriate to the local situation, and measure their effects very quickly. Ultimately, it will make it possible to discover the last pockets of transmission and know the effect of vaccination,” says Professor Poisson, who does not understand why this is “neglected” Path. Why waver between preventive microsurgery and heavy chemotherapy? Archery or napalm?
After a press release from the Academy of Medicine, July 7, 2020, the Ministry of Research responded, issuing 3.5 million euros to prove the effectiveness of the operation. It also confirmed the goal of establishing a regional network of 150 wastewater treatment plants. “The efficiency has been achieved, and we are improving the predictive tool. But there is no progress in the sequence. I have the impression that I am living in March 2020 …” Vincent Marichal suffocates. Which refers to the private groups who discovered the right vein, and who are starting to provide this service to local communities, “without the same guarantee of expertise” … at a cost more than eight times higher.
The promise of a quick settlement
So why is it blocked? It is basically a problem of medical culture. “Doctors are not trained to take indicators other than humans into account,” says Vincent Marechal. The virologist also defines “a system-related problem that does not know how to react and adapt to urgency and the unknown.” “The public authorities are very interested but we wasted a lot of time exploring the complexities of administrations. Variables do not wait. Vincent Marechal insists we need to act quickly now,” noting also the “tensions over the availability of reagents” needed for the analyzes. This Wednesday, after requesting the telegram from the General Directorate of Health, Vincent Marichel received confirmation of “a favorable and expeditious settlement”.
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