Researchers at Stanford University and Emory University have launched a national initiative to monitor monkeypox, COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in communities by measuring viral genetic material in wastewater. This effort will also provide health officials and the public with free, high-quality data, which is critical to inform public health decision-making. The initiative is already producing data, including the first detections of monkeypox DNA in US wastewater.
This new effort led by Stanford University, called WastewaterSCAN, significantly expands access to the analytical approach and public reporting developed by scientists and 11 Northern California communities through the Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network (SCAN) launched in November 2020. Beginning in SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, SCAN has provided comparative information over time and place to place about community levels of COVID-19, its variants, monkeypox, influenza A, and RSV to help shape public health responses to those infections.
Prominent scientists WastewaterSCAN (Twitter:WastewaterSCAN) were the first to report the discovery of genetic markers of monkeypox virus in US wastewater, which is to date the only findings reported from wastewater monitoring. They began testing monkeypox viral DNA at 11 sites in Northern California on June 19, and got the first two positive detections in plants serving parts of San Francisco the next day, finding monkeypox viral DNA in wastewater from 10 sites.
As of today, 38 treatment plants in eight states are receiving monkeypox results from WastewaterSCAN and SCAN as well as results for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 and its variants BA.4 and BA.5, influenza A and RSV. In all, the team detected monkeypox DNA in wastewater at 22 sites.
“Because it is population-based and unbiased with access to clinical testing, wastewater helps us understand trends in infectious disease in the community. We have seen how important this is as practices have changed,” said Alexandria Baum, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. Individual testing for SARS-CoV-2.” “Genetic material for the pathogens we monitor has been documented in secretions from infected people that end up in a wastewater treatment system.”
Scientists at Stanford and Emory are working with Verily Life Sciences, which is collaborating to improve high-throughput methods, test samples, and produce data in its lab, and with local wastewater and public health officials to produce actionable data on COVID-19 and more. Pathogens. Communities in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas are participating so far. The analytical approach does not measure infectious viruses in wastewater, but instead detects short fragments of the viral genome.
“We need to rethink our model for tracking infectious diseases and anticipating new threats,” said Marilyn Wolf, associate professor of environmental health at Emory University and co-principal researcher at WastewaterSCAN. “We take the same sample of wastewater solids that we already collect – less than half a gram representing up to millions of people in a community – and run a slightly different test for the next variant or pathogen.”
Providing a rapid turnaround of sample results is critical to helping public health officials understand the spread of these viruses in the community, allowing for more effective mitigation and treatment, said Bradley White, chief scientist for Verily’s public health efforts, including wastewater testing. “In collaboration with Stanford and Emory scientists, we have created open-access sharable protocols that enable knowledge transfer between academic, industrial, and government laboratories—and help launch a new, lifesaving approach to viral disease surveillance,” he said.
WastewaterSCAN is also partnering with the National Association of Cities to support a group of 50 of its member cities as they implement wastewater monitoring and work to improve public health based on its results.
“As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, community leaders play a very important role in the proactive management of health crises — and this public health emergency is no different,” said NLC CEO and CEO Clarence Anthony. “This partnership’s work to expand access to wastewater monitoring tools will help cities, towns and villages across the country lead the monkeypox outbreak response efforts equipped with data and a network of support.”
Wastewater plants samples in the participating communities three times a week and are supplied with materials to ship containers to Verily’s laboratory for analysis including detection of viral genetic material using PCR-based technology. Results are published on a public website within 48 hours of samples arriving.
Materials and shipping are free to communities, and stipends are available to defray some labor costs for sampling. WastewaterSCAN’s national expansion is made possible by support from the Sergey Brin Family Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Wastewater SCAN aims to demonstrate the value of a national stealth system that uses wastewater to inform public health measures and support the creation of a robust publicly funded public health infrastructure to prepare for future pandemics.