The concept of screening municipal wastewater and environmental water quality as an epidemiological tool for viruses is not a new concept and has been used to help inform broader infectious disease epidemiological surveillance and mitigation efforts such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Environmental surveillance has also been used and recommended for other infections, such as typhoid, early warning of hepatitis A and norovirus outbreaks, as well as for antimicrobial resistance, with modelling techniques used to assist both the design and interpretation of those efforts.
Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is also commonly used in the surveillance of licit and illicit drugs and various chemical contaminants which may impact human health8. Recent
studies have shown that environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease) signals or biomarkers (typically RNA) by means of Reverse transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (Rt-PCR) RNA by means of Reverse transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (Rt-PCR) can be a low-cost solution for tracking Covid-19 outbreaks in communities.