Photo/Illutration Shimadzu Techno-Research Inc. staff place a collecting kit that absorbed sewage water into a bag and squeeze the contents into a container in Kyoto on May 18. (Kazuhito Suwa)

KYOTO--A subsidiary of precision equipment maker Shimadzu Corp. is offering to perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on raw sewage running from buildings to more quickly track locations where the novel coronavirus is present.

As the virus that causes COVID-19 is known to exist in the feces of infected individuals before they develop symptoms, the company said it can identify likely problem locations through sewage checks.

Shimadzu Techno-Research Inc. recommends that all users of targeted buildings be checked at a medical institution if sewage water tests prove positive. 

The company said its method is a cheaper and more efficient way to locate infected individuals compared with conducting mass testing at the start. 

The service involves company personnel placing absorbent cotton wrapped in netting down sewage manholes within the premises of a client's building for 24 hours before conducting PCR tests on the absorbed water. 

It said results would be known a few days after collection. 

Regular testing would result in earlier discovery, the company said.

Shimadzu Techno-Research recommended that facilities for the elderly, schools and accommodation facilities use its service. The company charges a basic service fee of 70,000 yen ($640) each time it is called in. It also charges for transportation at the time of collecting samples and other fees. 

The two-step testing, which the company calls the “Kyoto model,” has already received nearly 100 inquiries from across the nation, the company said.