Using Wastewater Surveillance for Detection of COVID‑19 Virus

Mcbean, Edward | $50,000

Ontario University of Guelph 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

Since COVID‑19 is shed in the feces of infected people, the opportunity to use surveillance of wastewater to understand the extent of COVID‑19 virus within cities is enormous. This research will develop the necessary and critical protocols needed to allow a community to gain important insights of evidence-based knowledge regarding carriers of the COVID‑19 virus. For example, wastewater surveillance provides the opportunity to understand the extent of COVID‑19 carriers within a community (e.g. increases in COVID‑19 concentrations evident in the wastewater may be translatable into understanding whether a new wave of COVID‑19 is beginning, or, if concentrations of COVID‑19 cases are increasing in a localized area of their municipality) Reliable procedures for wastewater surveillance are key to really understanding whether control of the virus is occurring.

In addition to PCR-based detection of SARS-CoV-2, this research will also employ a metagenomic whole genome sequencing approach to provide useful data for COVID‑19 surveillance. RNA extractions from concentrated sewage samples will be conducted via a series of procedures and technologies. The wastewater-based epidemiology strategy involves first transcribing coronavirus RNA into complementary DNA (cDNA) by the reverse transcriptase enzyme, then amplifying the resultant DNA via real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to improve signal detection. Sequencing techniques will be needed to confirm viral presence in wastewater samples in sufficiently large numbers to be indicators. Ultimately, the intent is to provide governments at all levels, with reliable procedures for wastewater surveillance to really understand whether control of the virus is occurring.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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