Developing a Wastewater Surveillance System and Predictive Model for the Estimation of the Scale of Covid-19 Infection
In recent months, reports have emerged indicating that people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the pathogenic agent responsible for COVID-19) shed the virus in their faeces. Testing of sewage and wastewater has the potential to serve as another tool for early detection of COVID‑19 even before clinical cases are reported within a community. In partnership with the City of Winnipeg this project aims to develop a wastewater surveillance system and assess potential health risks by collecting samples biweekly from Winnipeg’s North End, West End and South End Sewage Treatment Plants. A wastewater epidemiology approach can play a crucial role to assess the true abundance of COVID‑19 infections in communities and to early detect a potential outbreak. The first goal of this collaboration is to reveal the real burden of COVID‑19 and use this information to help manage and/or prevent potential outbreaks. This project will develop a novel predictive model that can be used to analyze sewage and determine the number of COVID‑19 cases in the city. The proposed wastewater surveillance technique will also be suitable for use as an early warning system to uncover the circulation of this or any future virus in municipal populations. The second goal will be to reveal the persistence of the virus in sewage treatment plants (STPs) and treated sewage, and to partially understand potential health risks to sewage workers by analyzing sewage, treated sewage, sludge cake and aerosol samples from STPs. This is important to the health of the sewage worker at the City of Winnipeg. To summarize, the study aims to produce a predictive model, a wastewater surveillance method, data on environmental persistence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and to form a basis for occupational safety and health regulations for mitigating health risks caused by COVID-19.