First confirmed detection of SARS-CoV-2 in untreated wastewater in Australia: A proof of concept for the wastewater surveillance of COVID-19 in the community
Infection with SARS-CoV-2, the etiologic agent of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is accompanied by the shedding of the virus in stool. Therefore, the quantification of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater affords the ability to monitor the prevalence of infections among the population via wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE). In the current work, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was concentrated from wastewater in a catchment in Australia and viral RNA copies were enumerated using reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) resulting in two positive detections within a six day period from the same wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The estimated viral RNA copy numbers observed in the wastewater were then used to estimate the number of infected individuals in the catchment via Monte Carlo simulation. Given the uncertainty and variation in the input parameters, the model estimated a median range of 171 to 1,090 infected persons in the catchment, which is in reasonable agreement with clinical observations. This work highlights the viability of WBE for monitoring infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, in communities. The work also draws attention to the need for further methodological and molecular assay validation for enveloped viruses in wastewater.