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Development of wastewater pooled surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 from congregate living settings

By Lisa M. Colosi, Katie E Barry, Shireen M. Kotay, Michael D. Porter, Melinda D. Poulter, Cameron Ratliff, William Simmons, Limor I. Steinberg, D. Derek Wilson, Rena Morse, Paul Zmick, Amy J. Mathers

Posted 11 Oct 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.10.20210484

Wastewater-based monitoring for SARS-CoV-2 holds promise as tool to inform public health-decision making. Testing at individual building-level could be an efficient, passive means of preventing early detection of new cases in congregate living settings, but this approach has not been validated. Sample collection protocols were developed and refined during preliminary sampling from a hospital and a local municipal wastewater treatment plant. Molecular diagnostic methods were compared side-by-side to assess feasibility, performance and sensitivity. Optimized sample collection and processing protocols were then used to monitor two occupied dormitory complexes (n=105 and 66) over eight weeks. Wastewater results were validated using known case counts from external clinical testing of building occupants. Results confirm that ultracentrifugation from a 24 hour composite collection had a sensitivity of 95% and a specificity of 100%. However, if the detection of convalescent shedding is considered a false positive then the sensitivity would be 95.2% but the specificity would drop to 52%. We determined a highly sensitive method for detecting SARS-CoV-2 shedding in building wastewater however our methods could not distinguish new infectious cases from persistent convalescent shedding of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Future work must focus on methods to distinguish new infections from convalescent shedding to widely deploy this promising wastewater surveillance tool.

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