Just one section of Massachusetts could have more than 100,000 coronavirus cases — many times more than the entire state has identified at this point, according to an MIT-associated study of local sewage.
Biobot Analytics, which is a lab associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published research this week that an analysis of sewage from a treatment facility in “a large metropolitan area in the state of Massachusetts” suggested that many more people potentially have the highly contagious disease than tests have confirmed.
“On March 25, the area represented by the sample had approximately 446 confirmed cases of Covid-19,” Biobot researchers wrote Wednesday in a post about their research. “Based on our sewage analysis, we estimate that up to 115,000 people are infected and shedding the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
Biobot, which didn’t respond to requests for comment, didn’t specify where in the state the samples came from.
As of Wednesday night — two weeks of increasing numbers of confirmed cases after the date of the test — Boston had 2,502 confirmed cases, Massachusetts had 16,790, the U.S. had 419,000 and the world had more than 1.5 million.
But many medical professionals say that at least a quarter of cases are asymptomatic and therefore unlikely to be identified, and many more mildly symptomatic people haven’t been tested. Biobot said its results support both of those points, as well as a lag in detected cases of the virus, which can incubate for upward of two weeks before symptoms start and ramp up over the course of another week or two.