Coordination and Collaboration the Fastest Path to Success

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

Prepared by C. Ferguson
The Water Research Foundation, 1199 N Fairfax st, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314, United States

Contact Information:; 571-384-2105


Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific studies demonstrated that the genetic material of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) could be detected in the feces of infected individuals. In April 2020 the Water Research Foundation convened an International Summit on the potential use of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material as a tool for sewershed surveillance for COVID-19. The summit participants discussed how this data could be used, what were the current best practices and what were the research needs to support and accelerate the development of wastewater-based epidemiology to support health decision making on COVID-19. Four use cases were identified including trend analysis and occurrence, community prevalence, risk assessment and virus evolution. The highest priority research need was to evaluate the wide variety of methods available to detect SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in wastewater and assess their reliability, reproducibility, and sensitivity. Subsequently, WRF and the Gates Foundation funded a project to conduct an interlaboratory assessment of 36 methods for SARS-CoV-2 detection in wastewater which evaluated the efficacy of the predominant methods (Pecson et al 2021). These findings are assisting the rapid adoption and standardization of approaches to the collection and interpretation of data for wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2. A variety of methods continue to be used to rapidly deploy wastewater surveillance programs across the globe to track trends in COVID-19 distribution. The approach is providing early, cost-effective, unbiased, community-level (i.e., pooled) data that effectively supplements clinical data to support health resource decision making. Additional research is underway to understand the factors that may impact the genetic signal at a range of scales and how to report and communicate the information to health agencies and communities to support improved management of the COVID-19 pandemic.