Monitoring wastewater to detect COVID-19

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.

Contributing authors
Image of Dr Warish Ahmed
Dr Warish Ahmed CSIRO Land and Water
Image of Associate Professor Michael Beard
Associate Professor Michael Beard University of Adelaide
Image of Dr Paul Bertsch
Dr Paul Bertsch CSIRO
Image of Associate Professor Jeremy C Brownlie
Associate Professor Jeremy C Brownlie Griffith University
Image of Dr Mike Catton
Dr Mike Catton Doherty Institute
Image of Professor Erica Donner
Professor Erica Donner University of South Australia
Image of Professor Trevor Drew OBE FRSB
Professor Trevor Drew OBE FRSB Director, Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, CSIRO.
Image of Dr Julian Druce
Dr Julian Druce Doherty Institute
Image of Dr Mason Erkelens
Dr Mason Erkelens University of Adelaide Water Research Centre
Image of Associate Professor Cobus Gerber
Associate Professor Cobus Gerber University of South Australia
Image of Dr Kelly Hill
Dr Kelly Hill Water Research Australia
Image of Dr Melissa Humphries
Dr Melissa Humphries Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS) and the University of Adelaide School of Mathematical Sciences
Image of Dr Aparna Lal
Dr Aparna Lal Australian National University
Image of Associate Professor Branwen Morgan
Associate Professor Branwen Morgan University of Technology Sydney
Image of Professor Duc Long Nghiem
Professor Duc Long Nghiem University of Technology Sydney
Image of Dr Michael Short
Dr Michael Short University of South Australia
Image of Associate Professor Bruce Thorley
Associate Professor Bruce Thorley Doherty Institute
Image of Professor Zhiguo Yuan AM FTSE
Professor Zhiguo Yuan AM FTSE University of Queensland
Peer reviewers
Professor Linda Blackall FAA
Professor Linda Blackall FAA University of Melbourne
Image of Professor Susan Dodds
Professor Susan Dodds La Trobe University
Image of Professor Philip Hugenholz FAA FAHMS
Professor Philip Hugenholz FAA FAHMS The University of Queensland
Image of Professor Neil Levy FAHA
Professor Neil Levy FAHA Macquarie University and University of Oxford
Image of Professor William Rawlinson AM FAHMS
Professor William Rawlinson AM FAHMS NSW Health Pathology Randwick and University of New South Wales
Image of Professor John Shine AC PresAA
Professor John Shine AC PresAA President of the Australian Academy of Science
Image of Professor Peter White
Professor Peter White University of New South Wales

© 2020 Australian Academy of Science

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