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Media opportunity: Simple sampling method used by Dalhousie University researchers detects host of viruses lurking in recreational lake, offering an affordable way to monitor for influenza, SARS‑CoV‑2 and other pathogens in freshwater

Posted by Communications and Marketing on October 31, 2023 in News

Human viruses can pose serious health risks in freshwater environments like lakes and popular swimming spots, yet it can be difficult to detect their presence and abundance in these bodies of water since current methods are so limited.

Researchers at Dalhousie University who successfully developed a sampling device that identified SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic wondered if they might be able to use their technology to effectively check for various viruses in freshwater.

They adapted their passive sampler -- an inexpensive 3-D printed, porous ball now being used around the world -- to include granular activated carbon as the collection medium and deployed them in a busy recreational lake over six months last year. They also did traditional grab sampling of lake water to test it against their passive sampler.

The results were surprising. The team, led by Emalie Hayes and Madison Gouthro in Dal's Faculty of Engineering, detected seven different viruses, with adenovirus found to be the most prevalent, followed by respiratory syncytial virus, norovirus, enterovirus, influenza A, SARS-CoV-2 and rotavirus.

The researchers, who recently published their findings in Scientific Reports, are available to discuss their innovation, which could transform the way bodies of freshwater are tested for pathogens and alert regulatory agencies to potentially contaminated drinking and recreational water sources.


Media contact:

Alison Auld  
Senior Research Reporter  
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services  
Dalhousie University  
Cell: 1-902-220-0491  


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