SAN DIEGO — University of California, San Diego researchers from Scripps are using testing robots to identify the level of monkeypox in the wastewater system.

“Turns out that wastewater is this really powerful medium to be able to study anything that can be going on,” said Joshua Levy, a PhD researcher from Scripps.

The wastewater testing system was originally used for COVID-19, but now they have added monkeypox testing to the data collection.

“This is a single measurement that we can do to rapidly get a good estimate of what’s going on in the local area,” Levy said.

The system is currently scanning the wastewater of 2.2 million San Diegans at the Point Loma treatment plant.

Researchers are still not sure if the testing will be as accurate as the COVID system, but they can tell the monkeypox viral load is increasing along with the number of cases. There are currently 113 probable cases of monkeypox in San Diego and 1,300 cases in California, according to health officials.

Researchers say the new system can act as an early warning system for viruses hitting the area.

“We are seeing that this really does include quite a large number of pathogens that could be, as I said, these  viruses, but could also include pathogenic bacteria or other sorts of pathogens that could be responsible for the outbreaks of tomorrow,” Levy added.