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Avacta and Integumen collaborate to detect Covid-19 in sewage

Avacta has teamed up with Integumen to evaluate the use of its Affimer reagents in detecting the coronavirus in waste water.

Sensors in the sewage system could detect coronavirus outbreaks (38404000)
Sensors in the sewage system could detect coronavirus outbreaks (38404000)

Using sensors placed in the sewage system, the aim is provide a real-time alert system to warn of localised Covid-19 outbreaks.

More than 60 per cent of Covid-19 patients have gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, and the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be found in their faecal samples.

Whittlesford-based Avacta’s highly specific Affimer reagents are capable of detecting the virus’ spike protein and are already being developed for diagnostic tests and neutralising therapies, as the Cambridge Independent has reported.

The collaboration with Irish company Integumen will evaluate their use in next-generation sensors, using a real-time bacteria detection and alert system developed by its subsidiary, Rinocloud.

If successful, the reagents will then be integrated into Modern Water’s Microtox water contamination system to detect the coronavirus.

Microtox, an award-winning system for detecting contaminating bacteria, viruses and toxic, is distributed by London-based Modern Water and is already installed in 3,000 places.

The Affimer sensors would be consumable items replaced “on a roughly monthly basis”.

Initial testing will take place over the next few weeks before validation of the sensors using SARS-CoV-2 virus samples in a containment level 3 laboratory at the University of Aberdeen.

If successful, a supply agreement with Avacta will allow Integumen to manufacture and commercialise the waste water detection sensors globally by retrofitting them into Microtox systems.

Dr Alastair Smith, Avacta Group chief executive. (12155378)
Dr Alastair Smith, Avacta Group chief executive. (12155378)

Dr Alastair Smith, chief executive of Avacta Group, said: “I am very pleased to be entering into this collaboration with Integumen, which holds substantial commercial potential for an Affimer-based consumable SARS-CoV-2 detector unit to retrofit into the globally-installed base of Microtox systems.

“Affimer reagents are ideal for applications such as this, not only because of their sensitivity and specificity, but also because of their robustness, which is essential when being deployed in real-world situations, such as real-time waste water analysis.

“With the spread of Covid-19 continuing to accelerate globally, we are proud to work with partners like Integumen to provide our Affimer reagents for development on a range of platforms to combat the pandemic. This collaboration has the potential to deliver a product that will play a crucial role in the early detection of Covid-19 hotspots around the world.”

Gerard Brandon, CEO of Integumen and chairman of Modern Water plc, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Avacta, adding their highly specific and robust Affimer reagents to our real-time alert arsenal of pathogen capture devices for the Covid-19 virus in sewage. The global pandemic has highlighted waste water as a potential early warning hotspot detection opportunity and the inclusion of Affimer reagents adds an established method of capturing the virus to a widely used pathogen alert system."

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