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SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in primary municipal sewage sludge as a leading indicator of COVID-19 outbreak dynamics

By Jordan Peccia, Alessandro Zulli, Doug E. Brackney, Nathan D. Grubaugh, Edward H Kaplan, Arnau Cassanovas-Massana, Albert Ko, Amyn A Malik, Dennis Wang, Mike Wang, Joshua L Warren, Daniel M. Weinberger, Saad B Omer

Posted 22 May 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.19.20105999

We report a time course of SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in primary sewage sludge during the Spring COVID-19 outbreak in a northeastern U.S. metropolitan area. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in all environmental samples, and when adjusted for the time lag, the virus RNA concentrations tracked the COVID-19 epidemiological curve. SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations were a leading indicator of community infection ahead of compiled COVID-19 testing data and local hospital admissions. Decisions to implement or relax public health measures and restrictions require timely information on outbreak dynamics in a community.

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