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Wastewater-Based Epidemiology: Sewage Surveillance to Track COVID-19

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), or sewershed surveillance, is the analysis of wastewater to identify presence of biologicals or chemicals for the purpose of monitoring public health. WBE has previously been used to detect the presence of pharmaceutical or industrial waste, drugs, viruses and potential emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Recent studies showed that detecting the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in wastewater can be a low-cost solution for tracking COVID-19 outbreaks.

Want to learn more about methods for concentration, extraction and detection of viral RNA in sewershed water? We're here to help!

Request a Free Consult

Detecting SARS-CoV-2 in Wastewater: An Early Warning System for COVID-19

The earliest report of wastewater surveillance to track COVID-19 was a study by the KWR Water Research Institute in March 2020. They found the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater samples in the Netherlands. The report came within a week after the first case of COVID-19 in the country was confirmed. Since then, there have been numerous examples of using WBE to track COVID-19.

Although WBE cannot identify which individuals have been infected, it has several advantages compared to patient testing.

Learn about the advantages, challenges and opportunities of WBE in this presentation by Sameer Moorji, Director of Applied Markets, Promega Corporation.

Advantages of Wastewater Surveillance

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Early Warning

SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be detected in human feces a few days to a week before the onset of symptoms. A study showed that sewage surveillance can predict COVID-19 outbreaks even before individual patient testing and hospital admissions.

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Population-Wide Data

One wastewater sample can provide data on the average infection rate of thousands of people. This aggregated data can be especially informative to regions with low clinical COVID-19 testing rates.

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Low-Cost

Instead of individually testing thousands of patients, collecting and testing a small number of wastewater samples is much more cost-efficient for obtaining population-wide data.

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Trending Tool

Continual monitoring of wastewater can be used to establish trends in current outbreaks, identify new outbreaks, and prevalence of infections.

Viral Detection in Wastewater: The Future of Outbreak Prevention

Currently, our response to infectious disease outbreaks depends on the detection of disease after an outbreak has already occurred. By continually monitoring viruses in sewershed water, we can be proactive in identifying potential outbreaks before they occur.

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Faster Protocol for Detecting Coronavirus RNA in Wastewater

Current methods for detecting SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA require separate viral concentration and RNA extraction steps, which can take >8 hours to complete and may not generate consistent results. We developed a unique direct capture method that combines virus concentration, extraction and RNA clean-up steps to greatly reduce sample processing time.

No matter your sample number, we have a method that fits your needs. Our protocol combines vacuum-based direct capture with RNA purification using either mini spin columns, benchtop automation using Maxwell® Instruments, or 96-well plate-based automation.

Our SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Kit for Wastewater includes PPMoV internal process controls and standards to ensure accurate quantification. Choose a single target (N1, N2 or E) or all three.

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New! SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Kit for Wastewater

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Learn about the collaboration that helped develop the SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Kit, and how the kit is helping campuses monitor COVID-19.

Read Blog

Learn how a graduate student set up wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 in the lab using an automated process.

Read Blog

Wastewater Testing Products For COVID-19

Viral RNA Extraction

The following Maxwell® nucleic acid purification kits are recommended for extracting viral RNA from wastewater samples. These kits used with Maxwell® Instruments allow automated viral RNA extraction from wastewater at up to 48 samples per run.

Purification scale-up and automation support

Our Field Support Scientists are available to help you implement or optimize automation of viral RNA extraction methods, regardless of the instrumentation platform used. We’ll help you develop a workflow that meets your specific needs!

Learn More

Amplification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA

PCR reagents, including qPCR and RT-qPCR products, are routinely used to detect and amplify target viral sequences. The SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Kit for Wastewater was developed to detect SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in wastewater and includes multiple controls for internal amplification and inhibitor assessment.

Accurate wastewater surveillance testing requires kits specifically designed for wastewater samples. Learn more about how one such lab, Microbac Laboratories, is using the SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Kit for Wastewater to develop low-cost SARS-CoV-2 surveillance testing for university campuses in this blog.

"The Promega kits include internal controls for all the different parameters that need to be measured. The separate targets give us a lot of flexibility, which is what we need."
Robert Brooks, Technical Director and Operations Manager, Microbac Laboratories

Have questions about viral RNA detection in wastewater?

We're happy to answer any questions you may have and work with you to support your needs. Submit the information below to request a free consult and we will be in touch with you shortly!

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Presence of SARS-CoV-2 in Sewage

Read the first report of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA detection in wastewater by the KWR Water Research Institute.

Read Paper
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Sewage as Leading Indicator of COVID-19 Outbreaks

Read this study showing how monitoring wastewater can predict COVID-19 outbreaks.

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Review of SARS-CoV-2 in Wastewater

This review paper discusses the current state of knowledge and research needs related to SARS-CoV-2 detection in wastewater.

Read Review