Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is a powerful tool to monitor consumption of chemical agents or exposure to pathogens within a given population. Historically, it has been used to track diseases such as measles, polio, and Hepatitis A. Since the advent of COVID-19, several countries have started using WBE as an early warning system for increasing SARS-CoV-2 infections. An interdisciplinary team at the South African Medical Research Council is doing just that by weekly sampling of 70 wastewater treatment plants from across South Africa and determining the SARS-CoV-2 copies/ml in present in each treatment plant. As new variants of concern (VOC) are identified clinically, our team monitors each treatment plant for their emergence using PCR-based methods. In addition to this, we use sequence the genomes of SARS-CoV-2 from each treatment plant using ATOPlex technology from MGI. We show the utility of using WBE to predict increasing SARS-CoV-2 infection rates in communities as well as an early detection of system for the emergence of variants of concern.
*Unless otherwise informed, all sequencers and sequencing reagents are not available in Germany, USA, Spain, UK, Hong Kong, Sweden, Belgium, and Italy.
The platform manager of the South African Medical Research Council Genomics Centre
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