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T3 to provide services to other states, counties

Shield T3 and the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) today announced a new service to state and local governments outside of Illinois: Testing COVID-19 and its variants in sewage.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is detectable in human waste nearly from the onset of infection, while symptoms may not appear for three to five days. Thus, monitoring wastewater for the virus provides public health officials with early warnings of a potential outbreak.  

DPI has been monitoring COVID-19 in sewers or at wastewater treatment plants statewide under two separate government grants.

Shield T3, a for-profit organization founded by the University of Illinois System, is providing more than 1 million saliva-based COVID-19 tests per quarter in the United States. It operates seven labs and plans to open two more in response to increased demand. 

This is Shield T3’s first service offering outside of its saliva-based test.

“Wastewater testing complements individual saliva-based testing by enabling cities, campuses, or facilities such as congregate living facilities to monitor an entire community,” said David Clark, CEO of Shield T3. “This is particularly important because we have entered a phase in the pandemic where many people are not tested because they self-treat at home or are asymptomatic.”

Shield will leverage insights from the wastewater monitoring program that DPI and its partners have developed, which involves taking 1.7-ounce (50ml) samples twice weekly and shipping these overnight for laboratory analysis to University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Assoc. Professor Rachel Poretsky’s lab.

This new service builds on the successes of DPI’s wastewater-based epidemiology team, a multi-institutional interdisciplinary science team that was awarded DPI seed funding in 2020. Poretsky leads the team, which includes experts from DPI, UIC, Northwestern, and Argonne National Laboratory. (Photos and b-roll of Poretsky in her lab are here.)

“We are very much looking forward to building early warning systems for cities and states nationwide,” Clark said. “We’ve proven we can do it in Illinois, and now we want to take that expertise to other parts of the nation that need it.”