Proof of concept of wastewater-based surveillance for SARS-COV2 to mitigate secondary COVID‑19 disease transmission in First Nations in Alberta
We propose to track SARS-COV2 in the wastewater (WW) in targeted First Nations in Treaty 7 in Central/Southern Alberta. SARS-COV2 genetic material is excreted in the poop from infected individuals, often before symptoms start. Our research team has developed and deployed methods within an urban setting with centralized sewage for WW processing and for quantifying the amount of this signal. We will leverage this information to build a surveillance program with partnered First Nations to translate and mobilize monitoring into rapid community responses, enabling community-based targeted screening, isolation of households/groups and supportive distancing- thereby mitigating secondary spread. We will accomplish the following; 1. Develop procedures for efficiently collecting and transporting WW samples from communities to a central laboratory. 2. Within 48 hours multiple SARS-COV2 RNA markers and controls will be quantitatively processed to assess COVID‑19 trends. 3. Develop a collaborative model in which real-time data is shared between public health experts and community leaders. 4. Develop health and technical tools to help contain secondary infections (ie, community spread) once a potential cluster has been identified, including preparing Knowledge Keepers and primary care teams with technical knowledge, and linking understanding of community vulnerability based on access to basic infrastructure. Our trans-disciplinary team brings together Indigenous leaders, Alberta Health Services, and University subject matter experts from the Faculties of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Co-leads include scholars who work in close partnership with First Nations on health and infrastructure-related initiatives that intersect with COVID‑19 responses. Together, we have extensive experience with OCAP™ principles-aligned research and funding in partnership with First Nations, and are therefore in a position to engage eligible Nations to partner on this initiative.