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Making waves: Wastewater-based epidemiology for COVID-19 – approaches and challenges for surveillance and prediction

Lookup NU author(s): Marcos Quintela-Baluja, Professor David GrahamORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020The presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the feces of infected patients and wastewater has drawn attention, not only to the possibility of fecal-oral transmission but also to the use of wastewater as an epidemiological tool. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted problems in evaluating the epidemiological scope of the disease using classical surveillance approaches, due to a lack of diagnostic capacity, and their application to only a small proportion of the population. As in previous pandemics, statistics, particularly the proportion of the population infected, are believed to be widely underestimated. Furthermore, analysis of only clinical samples cannot predict outbreaks in a timely manner or easily capture asymptomatic carriers. Threfore, community-scale surveillance, including wastewater-based epidemiology, can bridge the broader community and the clinic, becoming a valuable indirect epidemiological prediction tool for SARS-CoV-2 and other pandemic viruses. This article summarizes current knowledge and discusses the critical factors for implementing wastewater-based epidemiology of COVID-19.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Polo D, Quintela-Baluja M, Corbishley A, Jones DL, Singer AC, Graham DW, Romalde JL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water Research

Year: 2020

Volume: 186

Print publication date: 01/11/2020

Online publication date: 09/09/2020

Acceptance date: 06/09/2020

Date deposited: 16/11/2020

ISSN (print): 0043-1354

ISSN (electronic): 1879-2448

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2020.116404

PubMed id: 32942178


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