SFO has launched a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) programme to continuously monitor airplane wastewater samples for variants of SARS-CoV-2.

The programme involves the monitoring of wastewater samples from San Francisco International Airport’s onsite triturator (which pre-treats waste before it is released into the sewage system) for variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. CDC’s partner in administering the program, Concentric by Ginkgo, the biosecurity and public health unit of Boston-based synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks, has installed an automatic sampling device that regularly collects combined wastewater flows from international arriving flights at SFO. These samples are then sent to an approved laboratory for testing.

“We are proud to be the first airport to launch this pilot programme with CDC,” said SFO airport director Ivar C Satero. “Throughout the pandemic, SFO led the way in enhanced screening, onsite vaccination, and surveillance programs. This latest effort represents the most targeted approach to identifying, monitoring, and ultimately mitigating COVID-19 variants.”

This is not the first time SFO has been involved in a wastewater collection programme. The airport previously supplied wastewater samples from its treatment plant to the University of California – San Francisco Medical Center for the identification of new COVID-19 variants.

This latest programme will be limited to wastewater samples from the International Terminal.

Image: San Francisco International Airport