Lab Matters Winter 2021 | Page 14


SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Monitoring :

A Tool to Support COVID-19 Public Health Decision Making

By Mia Catharine Mattioli , PhD , MS , science and engineering lead , National Wastewater Surveillance System , Division of Foodborne , Waterborne , and Environmental Diseases , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michaela Burns , science communications contractor , Oak Ridge Associated Universities , Office of Research and Development , US Environmental Protection Agency
Wastewater surveillance — identifying the presence of pathogens in wastewater to complement traditional public health monitoring of disease — has been used for decades to detect viral infections such as poliovirus . But until now , it has not been used in the United States on a national scale for a viral outbreak response . Research from across the country and the world has demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 can be detected in wastewater by looking for its genetic markers . 1 , 2 Quantifying these markers in wastewater has been demonstrated to reflect COVID-19 community infection trends ( from symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals ) sometimes days to weeks before cases are reported . In the US , this is often at the sub-county level . 3-6 The US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention ( CDC ) and the US Environmental Protection Agency ( US EPA ) are working to develop resources and tools to support states and communities in generating and incorporating wastewater surveillance into their public health response .
The National Wastewater Surveillance System ( NWSS )
The CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System ( NWSS ) is a new public health tool for monitoring SARS-CoV-2 infection levels in communities . CDC is supporting health departments across the US using SARS-CoV-2 wastewater data to inform public health decisions . Through NWSS , participating health departments coordinate with utility partners to collect wastewater samples at least twice per week from areas of public health concern . Specialized environmental molecular laboratories then quantify SARS-CoV-2 in these samples . Health departments submit testing data and associated utility metadata into the NWSS data submission portal . CDC analyzes the data and reports wastewater SARS-CoV-2 RNA trends and normalized concentration back to NWSS partners through an internal dashboard . Data appear alongside case data from the
12 LAB MATTERS Winter 2021
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