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mSystems ; 6(4): e0079321, 2021 Aug 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1350006


Wastewater-based surveillance has gained prominence and come to the forefront as a leading indicator of forecasting COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) infection dynamics owing to its cost-effectiveness and its ability to inform early public health interventions. A university campus could especially benefit from wastewater surveillance, as universities are characterized by largely asymptomatic populations and are potential hot spots for transmission that necessitate frequent diagnostic testing. In this study, we employed a large-scale GIS (geographic information systems)-enabled building-level wastewater monitoring system associated with the on-campus residences of 7,614 individuals. Sixty-eight automated wastewater samplers were deployed to monitor 239 campus buildings with a focus on residential buildings. Time-weighted composite samples were collected on a daily basis and analyzed on the same day. Sample processing was streamlined significantly through automation, reducing the turnaround time by 20-fold and exceeding the scale of similar surveillance programs by 10- to 100-fold, thereby overcoming one of the biggest bottlenecks in wastewater surveillance. An automated wastewater notification system was developed to alert residents to a positive wastewater sample associated with their residence and to encourage uptake of campus-provided asymptomatic testing at no charge. This system, integrated with the rest of the "Return to Learn" program at the University of California (UC) San Diego-led to the early diagnosis of nearly 85% of all COVID-19 cases on campus. COVID-19 testing rates increased by 1.9 to 13× following wastewater notifications. Our study shows the potential for a robust, efficient wastewater surveillance system to greatly reduce infection risk as college campuses and other high-risk environments reopen. IMPORTANCE Wastewater-based epidemiology can be particularly valuable at university campuses where high-resolution spatial sampling in a well-controlled context could not only provide insight into what affects campus community as well as how those inferences can be extended to a broader city/county context. In the present study, a large-scale wastewater surveillance was successfully implemented on a large university campus enabling early detection of 85% of COVID-19 cases thereby averting potential outbreaks. The highly automated sample processing to reporting system enabled dramatic reduction in the turnaround time to 5 h (sample to result time) for 96 samples. Furthermore, miniaturization of the sample processing pipeline brought down the processing cost significantly ($13/sample). Taken together, these results show that such a system could greatly ameliorate long-term surveillance on such communities as they look to reopen.

mSystems ; 6(2)2021 Mar 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1115101


Large-scale wastewater surveillance has the ability to greatly augment the tracking of infection dynamics especially in communities where the prevalence rates far exceed the testing capacity. However, current methods for viral detection in wastewater are severely lacking in terms of scaling up for high throughput. In the present study, we employed an automated magnetic-bead-based concentration approach for viral detection in sewage that can effectively be scaled up for processing 24 samples in a single 40-min run. The method compared favorably to conventionally used methods for viral wastewater concentrations with higher recovery efficiencies from input sample volumes as low as 10 ml and can enable the processing of over 100 wastewater samples in a day. The sensitivity of the high-throughput protocol was shown to detect 1 asymptomatic individual in a building of 415 residents. Using the high-throughput pipeline, samples from the influent stream of the primary wastewater treatment plant of San Diego County (serving 2.3 million residents) were processed for a period of 13 weeks. Wastewater estimates of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) viral genome copies in raw untreated wastewater correlated strongly with clinically reported cases by the county, and when used alongside past reported case numbers and temporal information in an autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) model enabled prediction of new reported cases up to 3 weeks in advance. Taken together, the results show that the high-throughput surveillance could greatly ameliorate comprehensive community prevalence assessments by providing robust, rapid estimates.IMPORTANCE Wastewater monitoring has a lot of potential for revealing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks before they happen because the virus is found in the wastewater before people have clinical symptoms. However, application of wastewater-based surveillance has been limited by long processing times specifically at the concentration step. Here we introduce a much faster method of processing the samples and show its robustness by demonstrating direct comparisons with existing methods and showing that we can predict cases in San Diego by a week with excellent accuracy, and 3 weeks with fair accuracy, using city sewage. The automated viral concentration method will greatly alleviate the major bottleneck in wastewater processing by reducing the turnaround time during epidemics.