Evaluation of Sampling, Analysis, and Normalization Methods for SARS-CoV-2 Concentrations in Wastewater to Assess COVID-19 Burdens in Wisconsin Communities
SARS-CoV-2, wastewater, RT-ddPCR, bovine coronavirus, pepper mild mottle virus, HF183, COVID-19 cases, COVID-19
Wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 provides an approach for assessing the infection burden across a sewer service area. For these data to be useful for public health, measurement variability and the relationship to case data need to be established. We determined SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in the influent of 12 wastewater treatment plants from August 2020 to January 2021. Technical replicates for N1 gene concentrations showed a relative standard deviation of 24%, suggesting it is possible to track relatively small (∼30%) changes in SARS-CoV-2 concentrations over time. COVID-19 cases were correlated significantly (ρ ≥ 0.70) to wastewater SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations across large and small service areas, with weaker relationships (ρ ≥ 0.59) in two communities. SARS-CoV-2 concentrations normalized to per capita slightly improved correlations to COVID-19 incidence, but normalizing to a spiked recovery control (BCoV) or a fecal marker (PMMoV or HF183) reduced correlations for a number of plants. Daily sampling demonstrated that a minimum of two samples collected per week were needed to maintain accuracy in trend analysis. The differences in the strength of SARS-CoV-2 relationships to COVID-19 incidence and the effect of normalization on these data among communities demonstrate that rigorous validation should be performed at individual sites where wastewater surveillance programs are implemented.
Feng, S., Roguet, A., McClary-Gutierrez, J. S., Newton, R. J., Kloczko, N., Meiman, J. G., & McLellan, S. L. (2021). Evaluation of sampling, analysis, and normalization methods for SARS-CoV-2 concentrations in wastewater to assess COVID-19 burdens in Wisconsin communities. ACS ES&T Water, 1(8), 1955-1965.