COVID-19: Wastewater Surveillance

Wastewater Surveillance: an early warning system for COVID-19 and measles

Tracking of wastewater plays a key role in the development of early warning systems (EWS) for various enteric viruses. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, tracking of wastewater has been proposed for SARS-CoV-2 surveillance, and a potentially important public health strategy to combat COVID-19 in a cost-effective manner.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic SARS-CoV-2 RNA has been successfully isolated and quantified in the wastewater of a growing number of countries.

A team at the SAMRC (including the Environment and Health Research Unit, the Biomedical Research and Innovation Platform, the Tuberculosis Platform, the Genomics Centre and the Biostatistics Unit), in collaboration with a range of academic and government partners, has completed laboratory and field proof of concept studies, and is now embarking on the full implementation of longer-term surveillance system in high risk settings.

An early warning system for COVID-19 may prove particularly important in countries like South Africa, where there are challenges with health systems infrastructure, testing systems, personal protective equipment (PPE) and human resource capacity.

More on wastewater surveillance for COVID-19: an African perspective in a publication written by the E&HRU.

Further information on water-based epidemiology (WBE) and COVID-19 around the world can be found on: