In this long-term study (eight months), a wastewater-based epidemiology program was initiated as a decision support tool for the detection and containment of COVID-19 spread in the Technion campus. The on-campus students’ accommodations (∼3,300 residents) were divided into housing clusters and monitored through wastewater SARS-CoV-2 surveillance in 10 manholes. Results were used to create a ‘traffic-light’ scheme allowing the Technion’s COVID-19 task force to track COVID-19 spatiotemporal spread on the campus, and consequently, contain it before high morbidity levels develop. Of the 523 sewage samples analysed, 87.4% were negative for SARS-CoV-2 while 11.5% were positive, corroborating morbidity information the COVID-19 task force had. For 7.6% of the SARS-CoV-2 positive samples, the task force had no information about positive resident/s. In these events, new cases were identified after the relevant residents were clinically surge tested for COVID-19. Hence, in these instances, wastewater surveillance provided early warning helping to secure the health of the campus residents by minimising COVID-19 spread. The inflammation biomarker ferritin levels in SARS-CoV-2 positive sewage samples were significantly higher than in negative ones. This may indicate that in the future, ferritin (and other biomarkers) concentrations in wastewater could serve as indicators of infectious and inflammatory disease outbreaks.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors wish to thank the following people: Mr O. Nagar, Ms N. Cohen, Mr T. Shmaya, and Mr M. Qasum for their support in sampling, maintenance, and laboratory analyses; Prof. E. Meyron Holtz, Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering – Technion, for providing ferritin from human sources and a protocol for its quantification; Dr Oran Erster from Central Virology Laboratory, Israel Ministry of Health for providing synthetic E-gene used for SARS-CoV-2 RNA copy number quantification and for his advice. The Technion COVID-19 task force for their cooperation and support, especially to Prof. J. Rubinstein the Technion Vice President for Research.
Financial support of the Milner Foundation and the Corona Research Fund, Technion is greatly acknowledged.
© 2023 The Authors.
- disease management
- in-sewer surveillance
- metabolic marker
- wastewater-based epidemiology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Water Science and Technology