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  1. Abstract

    Wastewater surveillance has proven to be an effective tool to monitor the transmission and emergence of infectious agents at a community scale. Workflows for wastewater surveillance generally rely on concentration steps to increase the probability of detection of low-abundance targets, but preconcentration can substantially increase the time and cost of analyses while also introducing additional loss of target during processing. To address some of these issues, we conducted a longitudinal study implementing a simplified workflow for SARS-CoV-2 detection from wastewater, using a direct column-based extraction approach. Composite influent wastewater samples were collected weekly for 1 year between June 2020 and June 2021 in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, USA. Bypassing any concentration step, low volumes (280 µl) of influent wastewater were extracted using a commercial kit, and immediately analyzed by RT-qPCR for the SARS-CoV-2 N1 and N2 gene targets. SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA was detected in 76% (193/254) of influent samples, and the recovery of the surrogate bovine coronavirus was 42% (IQR: 28%, 59%). N1 and N2 assay positivity, viral concentration, and flow-adjusted daily viral load correlated significantly with per-capita case reports of COVID-19 at the county-level (ρ = 0.69–0.82). To compensate for the method’s high limit of detection (approximately 106–107 copies l−1more »in wastewater), we extracted multiple small-volume replicates of each wastewater sample. With this approach, we detected as few as five cases of COVID-19 per 100 000 individuals. These results indicate that a direct-extraction-based workflow for SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance can provide informative and actionable results.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 25, 2023
  3. Wastewater surveillance for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA has demonstrated useful correlation with both coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases and clinical testing positivity at the community level. Wastewater surveillance on college campuses has also demonstrated promising predictive capacity for the presence and absence of COVID-19 cases. However, to date, such monitoring has most frequently relied upon composite samplers and reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) techniques, which limits the accessibility and scalability of wastewater surveillance, particularly in low-resource settings. In this study, we trialed the use of tampons as passive swabs for sample collection and reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP), which does not require sophisticated thermal cycling equipment, to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater. Results for the workflow were available within three hours of sample collection. The RT-LAMP assay is approximately 20 times less analytically sensitive than RT-droplet digital PCR. Nonetheless, during a building-level wastewater surveillance campaign concurrent with independent weekly clinical testing of all students, the method demonstrated a three-day positive predictive value (PPV) of 75% (excluding convalescent cases) and same-day negative predictive value (NPV) of 80% for incident COVID-19 cases. These predictive values are comparable to that reported by wastewater monitoring using RT-qPCR. These observationsmore »suggest that even with lower analytical sensitivity the tampon swab and RT-LAMP workflow offers a cost-effective and rapid approach that could be leveraged for scalable building-level wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 potentially even in low-resource settings.« less