Publication date: Oct 01, 2023
Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been widely used as a complementary approach to SARS-CoV-2 clinical surveillance. Wastewater genomic sequencing could provide valuable information on the genomic diversity of SARS-CoV-2 in the surveyed population. However, reliable detection and quantification of variants or mutations remain challenging. In this study, we used mock wastewater samples created by spiking SARS-CoV-2 variant standard RNA into wastewater RNA to evaluate the impacts of sequencing throughput on various aspects such as genome coverage, mutation detection, and SARS-CoV-2 variant deconvolution. We found that wastewater datasets with sequencing throughput greater than 0. 5 Gb yielded reliable results in genomic analysis. In addition, using in silico mock datasets, we evaluated the performance of the adopted pipeline for variant deconvolution. By sequencing 86 wastewater samples covering more than 6 million people over 7 months, we presented two use cases of wastewater genomic sequencing for surveying COVID-19 in Hong Kong in WBE applications, including the replacement of Delta variants by Omicron variants, and the prevalence and development trends of three Omicron sublineages. Importantly, the wastewater genomic sequencing data were able to reveal the variant trends 16 days before the clinical data did. By investigating mutations of the spike (S) gene of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we also showed the potential of wastewater genomic sequencing in identifying novel mutations and unique alleles. Overall, our study demonstrated the crucial role of wastewater genomic surveillance in providing valuable insights into the emergence and monitoring of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and laid a solid foundation for the development of genomic analysis methodologies for WBE of other novel emerging viruses in the future.
|Spike||Wastewater genome sequencing|