SASKATOON -- An increase in COVID-19 remnants detected in Sasaktoon's wastewater could mean an jump in case numbers is on the horizon.

Between April 16 and 20, University of Saskatchewan researchers detected a 312 per cent increase in viral RNA load in Saskatoon’s wastewater compared to the previous week.

"This rapid increase in viral RNA load in the wastewater is expected to be predictive of a rapid increase in new cases in Saskatoon," the research team wrote in an update on the university's website.

The researchers say the last time similar levels were witnessed was in November 2020 when Saskatoon saw numbers rise to more than 100 cases a day.

Based on the team's most recent results, 86 percent of the viral RNA load in wastewater was contributed by the B.1.1.7 variant of concern, the update said.

The B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in the U.K., accounts for nearly all of the cases in Saskatchewan where the strain has been identified.

Health officials say the variant can potentially spread faster than the original coronavirus strain.

A study released earlier in March also showed the B.1.1.7 variant may also result in a higher rate of death.