Advanced Water Management Centre

Monitoring wastewater to detect COVID-19

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

This rapid research brief synthesises the evidence on the feasibility of monitoring wastewater for early detection and monitoring of COVID-19 in the population.

Key findings:

  • Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) techniques are used in routine surveillance for human pathogens and have provided valuable public health data. Developing similar WBE techniques for detection of SARS-CoV-2 is an active area of research and rapid improvements can be expected.

  • Further understanding of SARS-CoV-2 infection biology and standardisation of WBE methods, along with improvements in their sensitivity and specificity, will enhance use of WBE tools to inform public health authorities of the prevalence of COVID-19 and management of its spread.

  • Given the resolution of WBE techniques can facilitate the identification of communities in a given geographic location, there are concerns of stigmatisation of communities resulting from WBE. Careful thought must be given to research design and public release of data.

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