SARS-CoV-2 RNA monitoring in wastewater as a potential early warning system for COVID-19 transmission in the community: A temporal case study



Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus which causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has spread rapidly across the globe infecting millions of people and causing significant health and economic impacts. Authorities are exploring complimentary approaches to monitor this infectious disease at the community level. Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) approaches to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA in municipal wastewater are being implemented worldwide as an environmental surveillance approach to inform health authority decision-making. Owing to the extended excretion of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in stool, WBE can surveil large populated areas with a longer detection window providing unique information on the presence of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases that are unlikely to be screened by clinical testing. Herein, we analysed SARS-CoV-2 RNA in 24-h composite wastewater samples (n = 63) from three wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia from 24th of February to 1st of May 2020. A total of 21 samples were positive for SARS-CoV-2, ranging from 135 to 11,992 gene copies (GC)/100 mL of wastewater. Detections were made in a Southern Brisbane WWTP in late February 2020, up to three weeks before the first clininal case was reported there. Wastewater samples were generally positive during the period with highest caseload data. The positive SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection in wastewater while there were limited clinical reported cases demonstrates the potential of WBE as an early warning system to identify hotspots and target localised public health responses, such as increased individual testing and the provision of health warnings. Crown Copyright © 2020 Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Attribute NameValues
  • Verhagen, Rory

  • O'Brien, Jake W.

  • Thomas, Kevin, V

  • Sherman, Paul

  • Ahmed, Warish

  • Simpson, Stuart L.

  • Dwyer, Jason

  • Choi, Phil

  • Mueller, Jochen F.

  • Clarke, Leah

  • Thi Minh Hong Nguyen

  • Bibby, Kyle

  • Tscharke, Ben

  • Bivins, Aaron

  • Zaugg, Julian

  • Bertsch, Paul M.

  • Edson, Janette

Journal or Work Title
  • Science Of The Total Environment

  • 761

  • 0048-9697

  • 1879-1026

Publication Date
  • 2021-03-20

  • Pandemic

  • WBE

  • SARS-CoV-2

  • Surveillance

  • COVID-19

  • Risk

  • Wastewater based epidemiology

  • Elsevier

  • English

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Record Visibility Public

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