In Japan, poop may have found a new role — foretelling community-level trends in coronavirus infections.

Surveillance of wastewater — which carries virus-containing feces — could be a game changer in the nation’s fight against COVID-19 by making it possible to detect the spread of the disease within a community at an earlier point, experts say.

They also say that virus data collected from sewers could be used to fill gaps in infection statistics, especially if the nation decides to scale down the reporting of new COVID-19 cases to ease the burden on hospitals, clinics and public health centers.