• An unprecedented partnership links the CNRS and the marine firefighters of Marseille in order to have a more detailed detection of clusters.

  • Researchers have developed a tool, based on a series of calculations, to trace traces of Sars-COV-2 in wastewater back to their source.

Do you think math is synonymous with cold sweats?

For the Marseille firefighters, in recent months, it has become a real weapon in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic in the Marseille city. 

20 Minutes

takes stock of this hopeful innovation.

How have the marine firefighters monitored the coronavirus outbreak so far?

The Marseille firefighters were among the first in France to monitor wastewater in order to locate traces of Covid-19.

“Every Monday, we take readings in 37 sectors, in specific areas,” recalls Principal Petty Officer Eric, sampling manager within the Comet cell of the firefighter battalion.

From these readings, the battalion of marine firefighters in Marseille have an idea of ​​the circulation of the virus, but only on a district scale.

What is this new tool?

Since this summer, as part of a partnership with the CNRS, the marine firefighters have been using algorithms developed by two researchers from the Aix-en-Provence UMR, Régis Darquès and Eric Carroll, who had the he idea of ​​combining different data, provided by IGN, INSEE or even local authorities such as the city of Marseille or the metropolis.

"The result of the processing of these statistical, demographic or even topographic data is coupled with the results of the wastewater analyzes carried out by the marine firefighters," explains Régis Darquès.

We have been working for a year and a half on this process which makes it possible to trace any biochemical compound through an underground network, to its source of emission, via geographic analyzes based on graph theory and the analysis of the network.

We are able, from this analysis, to trace the effluents to the buildings where the traces of SARS-CoV-2 were emitted in the wastewater, and to map everything very precisely.


What does it change ?

Once the data has been analyzed, the firefighters receive from the CNRS instructions on the manholes to be inspected a second and then a third time, until they are able to determine with great geographical precision which group of buildings, within a neighborhood, seems to house a cluster of coronavirus. "It's like a system of magnifying glasses", illustrates the principal teacher Eric.

And the method, tested in the Vieille-Chapelle district, in the eighth arrondissement of Marseille on November 16 and 17, seems to be bearing fruit.

In this sector where, at the time of the samples, the overall level of circulation of the virus was relatively low, two areas of more active circulation were identified by the firefighters.

An additional weapon while, according to the latest records from the battalion, the circulation of the Covid-19 has clearly strengthened this week in Marseille.

  • Firefighters

  • Cluster

  • Marseilles

  • Coronavirus

  • Covid 19

  • Cnrs

  • Mathematics

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