Wastewater 4 COVID
The Wastewater4COVID project aims to develop and implement a method for early detection of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) via sampling and analysing water from specific locations in the urban water cycle. Trends in SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentration in wastewater serves as indicator for trends in COVID-19 in communities. To achieve these aims, a Public Private Partnership was formed between Waternet and Blue Deal, both public organisations, Royal Haskoning DHV, an international engineering consultancy firm and KWR Water, an accredited research institute for the water cycle. The collaborating project in South Africa is connected through the EUREKA programme ‘Solutions for COVID-19 echo period – life without vaccines’.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in December of 2019, the virus has claimed more than 2 million deaths and more than 100 million people tested positive (Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, 2021). This number of cases only represents a portion of those infected by the coronavirus, as most people show only mild or no symptoms, yet they contribute towards the spread of the virus. This makes controlling this world-wide pandemic difficult, whilst the social-economic impact is immense.
Early in the pandemic, a molecular method was developed to accurately analyse wastewater for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA fragments (Medema et al., 2020). Testing and implementing this method in South-Africa and The Netherlands simultaneously, allows for comparison of 2 different contexts. When combined with epidemiological information, the analysed and visualised data will support health authorities in their monitoring efforts and assist in informing an effective outbreak response.
The main outcomes of this project will be:
- Community-wide test capacity in both countries of wastewater sources;
- Fine-tuning of existing methods for coronavirus detection in water sources;
- Developing strategies to scale-up monitoring programs to provide statistically representative information;
- Developing data analysis and visualisation instruments for virus circulation in communities to support health decision-making.