Wastewater Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 across 40 U.S. states

medRxiv. 2021 Mar 14;2021.03.10.21253235. doi: 10.1101/2021.03.10.21253235. Preprint


Wastewater-based disease surveillance is a promising approach for monitoring community outbreaks. Here we describe a nationwide campaign to monitor SARS-CoV-2 in the wastewater of 159 counties in 40 U.S. states, covering 13% of the U.S. population from February 18 to June 2, 2020. Out of 1,751 total samples analyzed, 846 samples were positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA, with overall viral concentrations declining from April to May. Wastewater viral titers were consistent with, and appeared to precede, clinical COVID-19 surveillance indicators, including daily new cases. Wastewater surveillance had a high detection rate (>80%) of SARS-CoV-2 when the daily incidence exceeded 13 per 100,000 people. Detection rates were positively associated with wastewater treatment plant catchment size. To our knowledge, this work represents the largest-scale wastewater-based SARS-CoV-2 monitoring campaign to date, encompassing a wide diversity of wastewater treatment facilities and geographic locations. Our findings demonstrate that a national wastewater-based approach to disease surveillance may be feasible and effective.

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