Using wastewater based surveillance to contain spread of CoVID-19 (wastewater-based epidemiology, WBE)


  • paresh
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  • Budding WASH researcher, especially interested in governance, public policy, finance, politics and social justice. Architect, Urban & Regional planner by training, Ex. C-WAS, India. I am a patient person :)
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Using wastewater based surveillance to contain spread of CoVID-19 (wastewater-based epidemiology, WBE)

(Note by moderator: a related thread from India during a 3-week thematic discussion is available here )

Dear all, 
There is an interesting lesson and example emerging from University of Arizona of using wastewater based surveillance to contain spread of CoVID-19.  After the University opened and students occupied hostels, wastewater from one of the halls detected presence of virus. All the students in the hall were immediately tested and the two infected asymptomatic students  isolated. This has averted spread of the virus to other students in the hall and the university classes. 

I believe the lesson is important for other institutes (including my own) planning to open gradually. 

Source: A twitter thread by @cfishman

Paresh Chhajed-Picha
Researcher at Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @Sparsh85
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(Under internship contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)
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  • kelldigest
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Re: Using wastewater based surveillance to contain spread of CoVID-19 (wastewater-based epidemiology, WBE)

This is very exciting. A great way to keep people safe and validate operational models in the context of COVID 19
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  • Chandana
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  • I am a Environmental Engineer, currently pursing PhD in Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. I am working on Faecal Sludge Management for a town. I am looking for collaboration to provide solution for FSM by experimental investigation on FS from different onsite containment and paper publications.
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Re: Using wastewater based surveillance to contain spread of CoVID-19 (wastewater-based epidemiology, WBE)

Nice initiative. It is very necessary in this pandemic time.  
I have completed my BE in civil engineering with a distinction in 2011.
From 2011-2013 I worked as a software engineer in IBM.
later I completed my master in environmental engineering in NIT Warangal . My Mtech thesis was done in NEERI, Nagpur on "Indoor air pollution in micro-environments".
In 2015. I joined academics as Assistant professor and worked on issues like the design of landfill, MSW management, Air pollution, Decontamination of geomaterials, etc.
Currently, I am doing my PhD in faecal sludge management.
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  • Carol McCreary
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Re: Using wastewater based surveillance to contain spread of CoVID-19 (wastewater-based epidemiology, WBE)

Hi everyone,

Today's New York Times has an interesting article entitled Looking to Reopen, Colleges Become Labs for Coronavirus Tests and Tracking Apps .  

As Paresh mentions, the University of Arizona recently spotted a COVID-19 outbreak in a single dormitory building using wastewater testing and was able to quarantine residents and halt spreading.  The technology is also being used in other universities.  Since many on this thread are researchers looking into this, you may want to contact the experts mentioned or the universities themselves for further details.

In addition to wastewater testing at the level of buildings, some campuses are testing phone apps that let users know if and when they have been in the proximity of a COVID+ person.   The article notes that the high degree of trust on many campuses facilitates testing of technologies that are crucially needed throughout the United States, where more than 182,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19.  

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a mighty foe as it fights for its survival by finding new human hosts. As an infected person exhales, the virus lurks airborne waiting for a non-infected person to inhale and become a new host. 

Carol McCreary
Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH)
1240 W. Sims Way #59, Port Townsend, Washington 98368 USA

Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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  • jay bhagwan
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Re: Using wastewater based surveillance to contain spread of CoVID-19 (wastewater-based epidemiology, WBE)

The WRC has made significant progress.  have a look at our site for recent updates.
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  • drgs
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Re: Topic 1 Protocol to test sewage for early warnings about COVID-19

Task Force of eminent public health experts issued the following opinion or advice on India Covid-19.
1. From graded re-opening of schools to discontinuing the lockdown strategy for pandemic control are some of the measures suggested
2. Lockdown as a strategy to be discontinued
3.  "cluster restrictions should be considered only in areas with no community transmission."

WBE is capable of picking up Covid-19 RNA. There is no doubt on it.

Where does that detail becomes actionable information? 
What should be the WBE screening strategy? 
Who are the key influencers in the national health care in present Pandemic situation?

At this point, India has world's largest daily Covid-19 infections reported. 80K to 100K is not very far.
A cursory glance at the distribution points to wide spread cases geographically.

Unless a clear approach is definable, an availablity of high tech is "Good to Know", but not worthy to act upon.

SME in this community need to arrive at clear road map for actionable intervention using WBE. 

Certifying Oil & Gas Reserves helped in realizing the fallibility of lot of Science and Technology. I believe that reliable and sustainable science needs integrity and commitment. Disbelief in science is originating from - i) Pseudo-Science; ii) Inconsistency and conflict in scientific doctrine; and iii) Weak Evidence: Data, Process, Review and Results.
Data Intensive Scientific Discovery (DISD) is the new paradigm for growth.
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