Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is an emerging surveillance tool that has been used to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA shed into wastewater. WBE was performed to monitor the occurrence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 from three wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and six neighborhoods in the city of Calgary, Canada (population 1.44 million). A total of 222 WWTP and 192 neighborhood samples were collected from June 2020 to May 2021, encompassing the end of the first-wave (June 2020), the second-wave (November end to December 2020) and the third-wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (mid-April to May 2021). Flow-weighted 24-hour composite samples were processed to extract RNA that was then analyzed for two SARS-CoV-2-specific regions of the nucleocapsid gene, N1 and N2, using reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Using this approach SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 98.06% (406/414) of wastewater samples. SARS-CoV-2 RNA abundance was compared to clinically diagnosed COVID-19 cases organized by the three-digit postal code of affected individuals’ primary residences, enabling correlation analysis at neighborhood, WWTP and city-wide scales. Strong correlations were observed between N1 & N2 gene signals in wastewater and new daily cases for WWTPs and neighborhoods. Similarly, when flow rates at Calgary's three WWTPs were used to normalize observed concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and combine them into a city-wide signal, this was strongly correlated with regionally diagnosed COVID-19 cases and clinical test percent positivity rate. Linked census data demonstrated disproportionate SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater from areas of the city with lower socioeconomic status and more racialized communities. WBE across a range of urban scales was demonstrated to be an effective mechanism of COVID-19 surveillance.
|Published - 15 Jul. 2022
- Census data
- Epidemiological monitoring
- Wastewater-based epidemiology