SARS-CoV-2 Monitoring in Wastewater as an Early Warning Signal for COVID-19 Presence in Communities
Presented By Devin Bowes, Arizona State University
The COVID-19 global pandemic caused by the virus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has highlighted several challenges within our healthcare system, such as accessible testing and rapid reporting. Wastewater-based Epidemiology (WBE) has been proven to serve as an effective, near real-time tool to understand human health and behavior at population-scale by analyzing raw sewage for human biomarkers excreted via urine and/or feces. The study within showcases the first ever longitudinal investigation of monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in municipal wastewater at the neighborhood level to track trends throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic. Untreated wastewater samples were collected from within the sewer collection system throughout Tempe, Arizona and analyzed for SARS-CoV-2 using reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Preliminary results indicate peak loadings of the virus observed in wastewater precede reported peaks of positive new clinical cases, COVID-related hospitalizations, and COVID-related deaths. This study holds great promise for the future of population-level diagnostics; acting as an early warning system for emerging infectious diseases and allowing more time for hospital preparation, resource deployment, and targeted educational interventions throughout communities.