Saskatoon wastewater study shows huge jump in COVID-19 viral load

The latest wastewater study from the University of Saskatchewan shows a massive spike in Saskatoon’s COVID-19 viral load, signalling the start of a new wave of infections.

On Monday, researchers released their latest report, showing a 742 per cent increase in viral load taken from sewage samples in the city. 

Toxicology professor John Giesy said these latest numbers come after COVID surges in Ontario and Quebec, as well as the UK and China, all driven by the more-infectious BA-2 subvariant of Omicron.

“Naively, or at least optimistically, based on the downward trajectory of the data for our three cities, I had hoped that our trend would be different, but alas it is not,” read an email from Guesy.

“As you can see, the data for all three cities that we monitor is not good.”

The latest wastewater information from the University of Saskatchewan shows a huge spike in numbers in Saskatoon. (University of Saskatoon)

The samples are an average of three readings taken at the water treatment plant last week and help the healthcare system predict cases leading into the future.

The study also found a 250 per cent increase in North Battleford’s wastewater data and a 56 per cent increase in Prince Albert’s viral load.

The spike in wastewater numbers comes after several weeks of lower numbers. As a result, Giesy had predicted that the city’s numbers would continue to decline.

Giesy now says the situation is too fluid to predict what will happen from week to week, but said this latest information is very troubling.

“What seems apparent is that there will continue to people infected with SARA-CoV-2 in the cities we monitor in here in Sask and there will continue to be pressure on the health care system for some months to come,” he wrote.

Giesy said it’s difficult to say what’s driving this wave of COVID-19, but believes it could be a combination of factors, including removing public health guidelines and mandates, decreased immunity among vaccinated people or an increased ability of the BA-2 subvariant to escape the immune response.

Researchers at the University of Regina last released their data on Apr. 4. They said viral levels had increased from the previous week and remain high.

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