A wastewater epidemiology company now estimates there are 1,800 cases of COVID-19 in Moscow — up from 1,400 estimated cases based on the July 1 sample from the city’s Water Reclamation and Reuse Facility, according to a city news release.

There are 46 confirmed and six probable cases in Latah County, according to Public Health-Idaho North Central District.

Moscow applied for and was accepted to participate in a subsidized program to test for the presence of the coronavirus in wastewater.

Biobot Analytics, a company that studied opioids in wastewater, initiated a program to track COVID-19 in wastewater. Biobot developed a process to identify, replicate and measure the concentration of the viral ribonucleic acid in a given wastewater sample.

Biobot states its methods for detecting COVID-19 in sewage are adapted from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols and rely on detecting genetic fragments of the virus that are excreted in stool. The tests do not determine if the virus is dead or active.

According to the release, the city has participated in the Biobot program from May to July.

Reports for the first three tests conducted in May resulted in no detectable cases of COVID-19.

Biobot used samples collected May 27 from the Moscow WRRF to estimate 190 cases in the community. That estimate grew to 1,400 using July 1 samples and then rose to 1,800 cases using samples from July 13.

The release said estimating COVID-19 cases from wastewater analysis is an emerging science and several variables, including rain events, daily flow variations and cleaning of sewer lines, could affect accuracy, especially in a smaller system like Moscow’s.

Moving forward, the city will participate with the University of Idaho Biological Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering departments, in partnership with the Institute for Modeling Collaboration and Interaction, to coordinate a regional wastewater testing program. Results from this testing program are expected in the coming weeks, the release said.

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