Longitudinal wastewater surveillance of four key pathogens during an unprecedented large-scale COVID-19 outbreak in China facilitated a novel strategy for addressing public health priorities-A proof of concept study.

Publication date: Dec 01, 2023

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is a promising tool for monitoring the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens, providing a novel public health strategy to combat disease. In this study, we first analysed nationwide reports of infectious diseases and selected Salmonella, norovirus, and influenza A virus (IAV) as prioritized targets apart from SARS-CoV-2 for wastewater surveillance. Next, the decay rates of Salmonella, norovirus, and IAV in wastewater at various temperatures were established to obtain corrected pathogen concentrations in sewage. We then monitored the concentrations of these pathogens in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) influents in three cities, establishing a prediction model to estimate the number of infected individuals based on the mass balance between total viral load in sewage and individual viral shedding. From October 2022 to March 2023, we conducted multipathogen wastewater surveillance (MPWS) in a WWTP serving one million people in Xi’an City, monitoring the concentration dynamics of SARS-CoV-2, Salmonella, norovirus, and IAV in sewage. The infection peaks of each pathogen were different, with Salmonella cases and sewage concentration declining from October to December 2022 and only occasionally detected thereafter. The SARS-CoV-2 concentration rapidly increased from December 5th, peaked on December 26th, and then quickly decreased until the end of the study. Norovirus and IAV were detected in wastewater from January to March 2023, peaking in February and March, respectively. We used the prediction models to estimate the rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Xi’an city, with nearly 90 % of the population infected in urban regions. There was no significant difference between the predicted and actual number of hospital admissions for IAV. We also accurately predicted the number of norovirus cases relative to the reported cases. Our findings highlight the importance of wastewater surveillance in addressing public health priorities, underscoring the need for a novel workflow that links the prediction results of populations with public health interventions and allocation of medical resources at the community level. This approach would prevent medical resource panic squeezes, reduce the severity and mortality of patients, and enhance overall public health outcomes.

Concepts Keywords
China Decay rate
Epidemiology Multi-pathogen wastewater surveillance
Increased Predictive model
Salmonella Public health priorities


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19
disease MESH infectious diseases
drug DRUGBANK Influenza A virus
disease IDO pathogen
drug DRUGBANK Isoxaflutole
disease MESH viral shedding
disease MESH infection
pathway REACTOME SARS-CoV-2 Infection
disease VO population
disease MESH panic

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