Qualitative and Quantitative Environmental Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in Ohio

SARS CoV-2 Wastewater Testing - State of the Science
Oral Presentation

Prepared by N. Brinkman
US Environmental Protection Agency, 26 West Martin Luther King Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45268, United States

Contact Information: brinkman.nichole@epa.gov; 513-569-7315


Environmental surveillance of wastewater can be used to monitor the prevalence, genetic diversity, and spatial/temporal trends of enteric virus circulation in communities, uncovering silent transmission before severe disease is documented. Since SARS-CoV-2 is shed in feces by a large proportion of infected individuals and collected in the sewerage system, many entities have been monitoring municipal wastewater to document trends of viral RNA concentrations over time. This type of surveillance can supplement individual testing and could provide a more comprehensive analysis of COVID-19 prevalence in the community since a large proportion of cases may be asymptomatic or self-limiting and remain unrepresented in clinical data. In collaboration with the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Water Resources Center, the Ohio EPA and various university labs, we are actively monitoring wastewater from utilities in Ohio as part of a statewide wastewater surveillance plan to aid in determining public health responses. In addition to twice weekly measurement of SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in wastewater, we are evaluating ways to account for population input using both biological indicators (e.g., fecal indicators) and typical water quality parameters (e.g., flow volume and total suspended solids). Furthermore, we are sequencing SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater samples to look at genetic diversity in contributing populations on a temporal and spatial scale over the course of the pandemic. As vaccine distribution is just beginning, we will observe the impact of vaccination on both quantitative (RNA concentrations) and qualitative (genetic diversity) assessments of SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance. In this presentation, I will summarize our progress to evaluate SARS-CoV-2 wastewater monitoring for public health applications.