LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Scientists want to study the spread of COVID-19 as Clark County Schools return to in-person learning, and plan to take wastewater samples from schools.
The UNLV Lab of Neurogenetics and Precision Medicine has been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 across the Valley, analyzing wastewater samples from various communities.
An infected person sheds traces of the virus into fecal matter.
The team plans to analyze samples from Clark County Schools prior to and after reopening, to analyze if and how the virus spreads.
"With schools opening, a worry is that children will be unwitting vectors for the disease. We will turn that fear into something that we quantify," said Dr. Edwin Oh.
Research surrounding children and schools reopening has many unknowns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that schools that safely reopen practice recommended protocols and mitigation measures, and have the same rates of infections as other public places.
Children, especially very young ages, are less likely to infect others and develop symptoms, according to the CDC.
Short of giving children daily COVID-19 tests, Oh said that wastewater sampling is easier and simpler option for surveillance.
"We'll be able to get a sense of whether or not children will spread SARS-CoV2," Oh said.
Oh has concerns about schools in zip codes with high infection rates and low vaccination rates among adults. The team will compare samples from diverse communities.
The team is also searching for traces of variants, and has found several samples of the U.K. mutation, indicating an unknown wider spread. Two isolated traces of the South African variant in one community.