Detection of COVID-19 Viral RNA in Wastewater as a Simple and Sensitive Method of Outbreak Detection in Large Populations

Wastewater Surveillance - State of the Science
Poster Presentation

Presented by J. Gantt
Prepared by O. Buettel
Analytik Jena US LLC, 3 Highwood Drive, Suite 103E, Tewksbury, MA, 01876, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 1-781-376-9899


Since the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States in early 2020, the incidence of infections in the population has been monitored exclusively by testing individuals for the presence of the virus itself or its antibodies. Testing individuals across the nation represents a significant cost for providing test kits and medical personnel to perform tests. Furthermore, this testing scheme relies on each individual’s compliance by seeking to be tested in case they experience disease symptoms, and the personal effort of visiting a testing site. While at-home test kits have been made available to all US citizens, it is highly likely that the majority of positive results obtained at home will remain unreported, unless symptoms become severe enough to require medical attention. In summary, this means that published incidence figures are likely underestimated, hindering the identification and early detection of local outbreaks.
During recent months, monitoring wastewater for viral RNA has been proposed as a method of detecting local outbreaks and has been implemented in several municipalities. The advantages of this testing scheme are obvious:
• Monitoring large populations at high test frequency (e.g. daily)
• Eliminates reliance on individuals’ compliance
• No underestimation of incidence
• Reduces cost by establishing central testing points
Endress+Hauser offers instrumental solutions for the entire workflow of COVID-19 detection in wastewater. An automatic wastewater sampler from the Endress+Hauser Liquistation product line is used to collect samples in defined time intervals. Viral RNA is then extracted and enriched on a membrane filter, which can be performed on site, and the filter is submitted to a laboratory for PCR-detection.
Analytik Jena, the laboratory division of Endress+Hauser, offers equipment and reagents for the extraction and purification of viral RNA, the preparation of purified samples for PCR analysis, as well as PCR thermal cyclers for simultaneous processing and analysis of up to 384 samples. All equipment used is scalable from single-sample processing up to an ultra-high throughput of thousands of samples per day.
This complete solution offers municipalities and industrial sites a unique turnkey solution from a single vendor, covering the entire workflow from sampling to detection and evaluation, for the early detection of local viral outbreaks. Due to highly automated procedures, all laboratory techniques are simple to use and can be performed by laboratory personnel with minimal training, and a turnaround time of a few hours only. The instrumentation used is based on an open platform concept, allowing high flexibility in the choice of 3rd party reagent kits. This also means that the system can easily be adapted to different pathogens, e.g. Salmonella, Listeria, or the currently emerging monkeypox.