Throughout the course of the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic there has been a need for approaches that enable rapid monitoring of public health using an unbiased and minimally invasive means. A major way this has been accomplished is through the regular assessment of wastewater samples by qRT-PCR to detect the prevalence of viral nucleic acid with respect to time and location. Further expansion of SARS-CoV-2 wastewater monitoring efforts to include the detection of variants of interest/concern through next-generation sequencing has enhanced the understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. In this report, we detail the results of a collaborative effort between public health and metropolitan wastewater management authorities and the University of Louisville to monitor the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic through the monitoring of aggregate wastewater samples over a period of 28 weeks. Through the use of next-generation sequencing approaches the polymorphism signatures of Variants of Concern / Interest were evaluated to determine the likelihood of their prevalence within the community on the basis of their relative dominance within sequence datasets. Our data indicate that wastewater monitoring of water quality treatment centers and smaller neighbor-hood-scale catchment areas is a viable means by which the prevalence and genetic variation of SARS-CoV-2 within a metropolitan community of approximately one million individuals may be monitored, as our efforts detected the introduction and emergence of variants of concern in the city of Louisville. Importantly, these efforts confirm that regional emergence and spread of variants of interest/concern may be detected as readily in aggregate wastewater samples as compared to the individual wastewater sheds. Furthermore, the information gained from these efforts enabled targeted public health efforts including increased outreach to at-risk communities and the deployment of mobile or community-focused vaccination campaigns.
Rouchka, Eric C.; Chariker, Julia H.; Saurabh, Kumar; Waigel, Sabine; Zacharias, Wolfgang; Zhang, Mei; Talley, Daymond; Santisteban, Ian; Puccio, Madeline; Moyer, Sarah; Holm, Rochelle H.; Yeager, Ray A.; Sokoloski, Kevin J.; Fuqua, Joshua; Bhatnagar, Aruni; and Smith, Ted, "The rapid assessment of aggregated wastewater samples for genomic surveillance of sars-cov-2 on a city-wide scale" (2021). Faculty Scholarship. 702.