SARS-CoV-2 Viruses in Wastewater: Monitoring COVID-19 and Estimating Potential Transmission Risk
Sep 16, 2020
Since the beginning of the pandemic, research groups have been working on methods to detect SARS-CoV-2 viruses in wastewater to be used to monitor the degree of COVID-19 transmission among the population.
The idea is simple: since infected people shed SARS-CoV-2 viruses in their faeces, wastewater samples could give an indication of the infection numbers among all the residents connected to a wastewater treatment plant.
Given sufficient sensitivity, these analyses could function as an early-warning system for authorities, allowing early detection of local case increases within the catchment area of a treatment plant.
A consortium of Frankfurt virologists, ecotoxicologists and evolution researchers, and water researchers from Aachen have now shown for the first time in Germany that SARS-CoV-2 genetic material can be detected in treatment plants using modern molecular methods. Analyses revealed 3 to 20 gene equivalents per millilitre of raw wastewater in all nine treatment plants tested during the first pandemic wave in April 2020. This concentration level was also measured in studies in the Netherlands and the USA.
The researchers were astonished that older retention samples from the years 2017 and 2018, before the outbreak of the pandemic, also delivered signals. Extensive method validation revealed that the gene primer erroneously registered not only SARS-CoV-2, but other non-disease causing coronaviruses in wastewater as well. The current method, developed specifically for SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, has been confirmed through gene sequencing.
The method can be now employed for what is called wastewater-based epidemiology: the measured viral load of a treatment plant allows conclusions on the number of COVID-19 infected individuals in the catchment area. In the largest treatment plant, 1,037 acute cases were estimated in the catchment area for a viral load of 6 trillion (6 x 1012) gene equivalencies pro day; in smaller treatment plants with viral loads lower by two orders of magnitude, 36 cases were estimated.
The sensitivity is sufficient as an early warning system to indicate whether the action value of 50 incidents per 100,000 residents has been exceeded. Earlier hopes that the precision would be sufficient to determine the estimated number infected people not reported through laboratory diagnosis have not yet been fulfilled. However, the scientists believe that further improvements in the methods are possible.
In vitro cell tests have shown that the SARS-CoV-2 fragments verified in the wastewater are non-infectious. However, due to the high loads and low retention capacity of conventional treatment plants, the behaviour of SARS-CoV-2 in the water cycle should be investigated more deeply. The authors of the study are working on making their knowledge available for an application of the method soon, with the goal of achieving a close cooperation between health ministries, environmental ministries, treatment plant operators and professional associations
The research team was formed on the initiative of the non-profit Research Institute for Water and Waste Management at RWTH Aachen (FiW), the Institute for Household Water Management at RWTH Aachen (ISA), the Institute for Medical Virology at University Hospital Frankfurt (KGU) and Department for Evolution Ecology and Environmental Toxicology at the Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity at Goethe University Frankfurt, and is supported by six water boards in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics (TBG) and the University of Saskatoon in Canada.
More News and Articles
Sep 25, 2020
Irish Water’s Kilkenny Sludge Project has been recognised at the prestigious Water Industry Awards, which promotes excellence in the water industry across the UK and Ireland.
Sep 24, 2020
Esco Introduces new COHOG® Split Frame Tube & Pipe Cutter that is Robust with Easy to Setup Modular Tooling
Esco Tool has introduced a new clamshell style, O.D. mounted split frame machine that features fast, accurate, and easy to setup indexable tooling to part and bevel tube and pipe from 2” to 48” dia.
Sep 23, 2020
Dr. Tom Iseley returned to Purdue University having been appointed as the Beavers Heavy Construction Distinguished Fellow with an academic rank of full Professor of Engineering Practice in the Construction Engineering and Management Division (CEM) in the College of Engineering. …
Sep 22, 2020
The way we learn has been gradually changing. Nevertheless, due to COVID-19, organizations had to leapfrog their learning methods and adapt quickly. In the last few months, there has been a profusion of webinars and – insert here your favorite …
Sep 21, 2020
20 cities across Spain monitor almost 10 million people daily to contain virus spread.
Sep 18, 2020
In July, a jubilant ceremony marked a milestone for southern Turkey’s arduous Bahçe-Nurdaği High-Speed Railway Tunnel. The first TBM-driven portion of tunneling using an 8.0 m (26.2 ft) diameter Robbins Single Shield machine is now complete. The 8.9 km (5.5 …
Sep 17, 2020
Members of CEN/TC 155, the Technical Committee coordinating standards activities for plastic piping and ducting systems within CEN, the European Committee for Standardisation, have unanimously re-elected Monica de la Cruz for a new mandate of three years.
Sep 15, 2020
Granite announced that Granite Inliner, a wholly-owned subsidiary with one of the most comprehensive service portfolios in the piping infrastructure renewal industry, has been awarded five sewer renewal contracts totaling approximately $148 million by the City of Chicago. These contracts …
Sep 14, 2020
A new centrally held register of water professionals who can contribute to disaster efforts has been launched by the Water Action Platform. The Crisis Response Register has been set up initially as a response to the explosion that occurred in …
Sep 11, 2020
Olea Edge Analytics, an intelligent edge computing platform for the water utility industry, announced the launch of CityEdge, a combination of blockchain technology, AI and machine learning that unlocks much-needed revenue for cash-strapped cities.
Sep 10, 2020
The water industry should continue to embrace new ways of working in a Covid-altered world and seize the opportunity to affect permanent change, a group of industry professionals heard.
Sep 09, 2020
The company Rimtec – Frank Preuss is a Swiss specialist dealer for sewer cleaning and rehabilitation technology. As part of a customer order, the company relies on an extensively equipped and fully upgraded rehabilitation trailer from BRAWO® Tech. The handover …