Wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 across 40 U.S. states from February to June 2020

Water Res. 2021 Jul 2;202:117400. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117400. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Detection rate; SARS-CoV-2; Spatiotemporal dynamics; United States; Wastewater surveillance.