Islamabad - The health authorities through polio environmental surveillance system have detected presence of novel coronavirus in around one dozen polio sewage sample sites of the country, officials confirmed on Wednesday.

Officials at National Institute of Health (NIH) informed The Nation that the scientists linked with the polio eradication program isolated the COVID-19 using the polio environmental sampling surveillance system.

There are around sixty sewage sites in the country from where polio samples are collected regularly to check the presence of the virus.

NIH officials said that using the polio program mechanism, the health experts collected samples from some of the sewage sites and isolated the COVID-19 from it as well.

“It could be helpful in knowing the asymptomatic patients of COVID-19 in different communities,” said a senior official of the NIH.

As per the details available with The Nation the COVID-19 samples were confirmed from the polio sewage sites of Quetta, Kohat, Bannu, Sialkot, Killah Abdullah, Pishin, D.I Khan, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Faislabad.

Officials said that results of the detection of COVID-19 from polio sewage sites had also been shared on international forum with Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Global Polio Network Laboratory (GPNL) in Switzerland.

NIH officials said that the development could be assessed on both broader and micro level. On the broader canvas, with sample collection from different intervals of 60 polio sites, the health authorities could determine the movement of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in the communities.

While at the micro level, if the health authorities wanted to detect the presence of COVID-19 in any particular community it could collect sewage samples from that area to determine the presence of the virus, said officials.

“It will be an advanced step for the detection of asymptomatic cases in the population as they are being less reported comparatively to symptomatic cases,” officials said. Officials said that it would be useful and handy method for the detection and prevalence of COVID-19 asymptomatic cases in different areas, and government also would have to set new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the sanitary workers who were mainly exposed to sewage.

“The polio teams were sent to collect the sample from the sewage sites of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and both samples confirmed presence of the COVID-19,” said the official.

Meanwhile, National Coordinator (NC) on Polio Eradication Program (PEP) Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar confirmed that an exercise of the sample collection from polio sites for the COVID-19 was done and it remained successful. He said that the COVID-19 has been confirmed in around twelve sites in the country during this exercise.