Delta variant detected as dominant COVID-19 variant in S. Africa’s Western Cape province

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The highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 was detected as the dominant variant this week in several towns in Western Cape Province, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has said.

The variant was found in 19 wastewater treatment plants in the provincial capital, Cape Town. Wastewater-based surveillance for detecting SARS-CoV-2 has been carried out in a number of countries, and a good correlation has been found between viral load in wastewater and subsequent COVID-19 cases.

Scientists of the SAMRC’s Wastewater Surveillance and Research Program, established in July 2020 to support the country’s efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, have since this week screened for the presence of mutations associated with the Delta variant in sewage using qRT-PCR technology, the research council said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The findings coincide with an increase of SARS-CoV-2 viral loads detected at tested sewage treatment plants and several of the towns, the statement said.

During the past few weeks, there have seen sharp increases in the levels of SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in most of the wastewater treatment plants monitored by the wastewater surveillance program in various parts of the nation.

Data obtained from wastewater testing provides an overview of infections within communities served by specific wastewater catchment areas, according to Rabia Johnson, deputy director of the SAMRC’s Biomedical Research and Innovation Platform.

Chief Research Operations Officer at the SAMRC Mongezi Mdhluli, in light of the findings, implored all people in South Africa to adopt the “highest level of precaution possible to disrupt transmission of COVID-19.”