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West Hub

The University of Cambridge's Estates Division is working with Untap Health to monitor the collective health of West Hub users during Michaelmas term.

The two-month pilot project (from October to December 2023) will use innovative technology to monitor the health of the whole community for selected pathogens, in real-time, using a single test station, in the outgoing sewage.  

Untap Health will provide the University of Cambridge’s Estates Division Health and Safety team with daily data on the local viral risk for:

  • Norovirus
  • RSV
  • Influenza
  • COVID-19

This will allow actions to be taken in response – for example increased cleaning, signage to remind customers of the importance of handwashing or alerting the wider University in the case of significant outbreaks.

Dr Charlotte Hammer, Everitt Butterfield Fellow in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Downing College, said. “Universities are, by their nature, at a heightened transmission risk due to the large number of people mixing both professionally and socially on a daily basis in changing groups, with some of them even living in this same setting.

“Wastewater surveillance could potentially also be useful at building or community level by giving a more granular picture on circulating pathogens and thus allowing for local mitigation measures. Especially in a setting such as the West Hub, which attracts a wide range of students and staff. Early warning at the local level could be beneficial to reduce disease transmission.”

The pilot is for community wastewater surveillance and no individual will be identifiable through the testing. The testing is for the pathogens listed only and not for drugs, alcohol or any other substances. Alternative toilet facilities are also available at West Café and at the Maxwell Centre.

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