Detection and quantitation of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater to conduct surveillance on burden of community infection, identify outbreaks and support public health decision-making on control measures for transmission of COVID-19

Pang, Xiaoli L | $487,859

Alberta University of Alberta 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

COVID‑19 has been sweeping the world for 6 months. The daily report about new cases, associated deaths and recoveries globally are mentally traumatic for everyone. However, the real number of people infected by this new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) may be far higher than official reported because current testing positive numbers counts only sick patients but not asymptomatic ones. Asymptomatic person is the most dangerous silent source for community transmission. A modeling study suggested that the virus might simmer around the world, triggering epidemics every few years. Thus, it would be important to predict the next wave of virus, which allows the government and people to be prepared. Recent studies have detected SARS-CoV-2 in stool as well as raw sewage. We also detected this virus in sewage collected from three different wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) in Alberta. It has been proposed that the occurrence and levels of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage will mirror temporal burden of community infection. Therefore, the aim of this study is to develop a reliable method to detect the prevalence of community infection and forecast the next wave of COVID‑19 through monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in sewage. This will provide evidences on the presence and levels of virus in our community, when it will possibly flare up causing an outbreak, and when and why our health authorities give an order to applying or relaxing social distancing and masking measures for controlling virus spread. A mathematical model based on the results obtained from this study will be generated to predict the trend of community infection under different conditions. This research brings benefits and knowledge to every Albertan, and also give us a tool and measure against new coronavirus now and in future.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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