The current pandemic is due to the spread of SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus that causes a severe respiratory infection known as COVID-19. Recent reports have noted the presence of viral RNA in stool samples, offering unique measurement challenges and opportunities in three areas:
Biosurveillance of Wastewater: Local public health labs can monitor sewage treatment facilities to measure the rise and fall of COVID-19 in a community; potentially as a tool to help predict future waves of outbreaks.
Feces as a New Target for Diagnostic Testing: Currently there are >140 commercially available COVID-19 diagnostic tests. While initially validated using nasal swabs, these same tests can potentially be re-validated in fecal material.
Fecal Microbiome Transplantation (FMT) Safety: Every year, thousands of patients receive FMTs to treat infections and other health conditions. The FDA has released a safety alert stating donor material must be screened for COVID-19, as feasible.
Workshop Purpose and Expected Outcomes
To address these new challenges and opportunities, we are organizing a virtual workshop that convenes stakeholders in the above areas. Workshop goals are to:
Gain insight on measurement challenges associated with detecting SARS-CoV-2 in fecal material.
Disseminate NIST’s unique expertise in producing standards and reference materials to address urgent measurement challenges.
Determine how the NIST Human Whole Stool Reference Material (RGM 10162), currently under development, could potentially be modified and deployed to address these emerging needs.
A workshop report will summarize the discussion and inform planning for ongoing and future NIST efforts.