Your Partner in Wastewater-Based Epidemiology

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The challenges of containing the highly transmissible coronavirus (COVID-19) reinforced the need for quality public health data and community disease monitoring. Wastewater contains a trove of epidemiological information, but we have only scratched the surface of potential applications and use cases. We can now fully unlock the full potential of wastewater testing and surveillance as a public health tool with increased awareness, resources, and standardization.

Why Wastewater?

Wastewater provides a comprehensive portrait of community health regardless of an individual's access to healthcare.

Wastewater surveillance is a cost-effective and non-invasive way to track evolving health threats, including the spread of viruses while avoiding the biases of other epidemiological indicators. It collects data from an entire population regardless of individual symptoms or access to healthcare. It can reveal infection dynamics earlier than diagnostic testing and provide public health officials with real-time information on disease prevalence in each community. Wastewater data can also be used to check the reliability of epidemiological trends calculated from diagnosed virus cases.

How Bio-Rad's Wastewater Tests Contribute to Public Health

Wastewater SARS-CoV-2/ COVID-19 Testing with ddPCR Technology:
An accurate approach to absolute quantification.

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Bio-Rad's PREvalence Kits demonstrated early on, value of wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) for tracking COVID outbreaks. Wastewater testing has been used since the 1980s to help identify silent poliovirus circulation and curb outbreaks in Finland, Israel, and the Netherlands, in addition to being used to track hepatitis A and norovirus. Its public awareness grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many communities used it for the first time as a complementary public health surveillance tool.

In multiple countries, researchers used wastewater testing to detect circulating virus weeks to months before reports of the first clinical cases emerged. Using sensitive Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR) assays for wastewater testing allowed scientists to detect the coronavirus six days before clinical testing at a sensitivity of one infected individual in 10,000. By comparison, only 32% of infected individuals were seeking medical attention at the time.

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Other Uses for Wastewater Testing Methods

Wastewater testing and surveillance can usher in a healthier future.

The spread of antimicrobial resistance poses a significant global health threat by restricting the ability of healthcare providers to treat infections. Wastewater is one of the primary pathways for antimicrobials and resistant microbes to reach the environment. Testing wastewater for the presence and diversity of antimicrobial-resistant genes against different drugs could indicate where — and to what extent — resistant bacteria are released into the environment. There are also a variety of potential applications for wastewater testing that include detecting chemical exposures, KRAS mutations in cancer, and seasonal influenza tracking.

eBook: The Past, Present, and Future of Wastewater-Based Epidemiology

Prioritizing Resources for Wastewater Surveillance

Confronting the challenges of scaling wastewater testing starts with access to resources and funding.

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Wastewater testing laboratories contend with many demands. Scientists must analyze a diverse range of contaminants, drawing on a variety of methods and techniques, while managing a large volume of samples. Through all this, they must balance high throughputs and low instrument downtime while maintaining high sensitivity and producing reliable results. Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR) technology addresses these issues and takes wastewater testing to the next level with the sensitivity and precision needed to reliably detect the presence of specific viruses and viral variants in wastewater samples, even at extremely low concentrations. Compared to other common approaches, it is less variable and has simpler data analysis.

Bio-Rad Wastewater Testing Solutions

Expert-designed solutions can help wastewater testing laboratories overcome common challenges.

Bio-Rad offers optimized ddPCR assays to detect a plethora of viruses and bacteria, including SARS-CoV-2, norovirus, adenovirus, Legionella, and Enterococcus. In addition, Bio-Rad has predesigned assays to detect variants of concern so researchers can access and implement them at speed and scale. Multiplexed ddPCR analysis is less prone to artifacts and has simpler data analysis compared to other technologies, and ddPCR-based wastewater testing allows researchers to analyze the circulation of multiple pathogens accurately.

ddPCR-based wastewater testing and surveillance has opened a world of possibilities in which researchers can accurately analyze the circulation of multiple pathogens and thereby improve the quality and response time of public health decision-making.

Monkeypox Testing

Bio-Rad created two expert design assays for detection and quantification of the two strains of the monkeypox virus reported to be circulating in the non-endemic countries of concern, Congo Bio-Rad Droplet Digital PCR Assays | ddPCR™ Expert Design Assay: ddPCR Monkeypox_Congo and West Africa Bio-Rad Droplet Digital PCR Assays | ddPCR™ Expert Design Assay: ddPCR Monkeypox_West Africa.

These two new expert design assays are now live and available through the Digital PCR Assays website.

Selected Protocols

Examples of Protocols Shared by Scientists*

* These protocols are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal, medical, clinical, or safety advice, or otherwise; content added to protocols.io is not peer reviewed and may not have undergone a formal approval of any kind. Information presented in these protocols should not substitute for independent professional judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment.