Wastewater surveillance falls within the broad category of environmental surveillance. It can assess the presence or quantity of a chemical or biological signal in a pooled sample of sewage, taken for example from the sewer network or a wastewater treatment plant, to obtain information on various aspects of public health and human behavior.
Historically, it has been applied to monitor/detect pathogens transmitted by fecal or oral routes. The origin of wastewater surveillance one may argue that goes back to the mid 1800s in London, UK, whence John Snow first made the connection between water supply, its pollution by a cesspool and waterborne disease. During the industrial revolution similar observations were made in various other cities. The germ theory led to a new era of scientific enlightenment in wastewater science, with scientists looking into sewage not only for cholera but also for other pathogens, including poliovirus, hepatitis, influenza, and coxsackie viruses amongst others. Wastewater surveillance constituted a critical pillar of the worldwide initiative to eradicate polio.
Wastewater surveillance presents undoubtedly an indicator of infectious disease transmission, and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the broad adaptation of wastewater surveillance across the globe. Victor Hugo had already written in Les Misérables, that “the sewer is the conscience of the city”. The evolution we are currently seeing in the capabilities of genomics, bioinformatics, and computational methods, is increasingly contributing to our understanding of infectious diseases and, surely enough wastewater surveillance has an important role to play in that regard in the years to come.
Herein, Human Genomics seeks to create a collection of recent studies addressing various key questions in relation to mapping the wastewater genome towards the understanding of human infections disease (e.g., viruses, bacteria, antibiotic resistance bacteria, other microbes). Examples include:
• What infectious diseases have been detected in wastewater?
• What are the technical challenges of such systems in relation to sampling, analysis, and interpretation of results?
• Sampling approaches, analytical methods, reporting methods
• Specific case studies including ports, ships, airports, aircrafts, immigration detention centers, etc.
• Wastewater-based epidemiology for comprehensive community health diagnostics
• National surveillance studies and systems
• Can the public health sector incorporate such methodologies and systems in their surveillance work?
• What insights for public health can be drawn from the types of pathogens that have been detected in wastewater?
• Future directions and perspectives
We invite submissions from any relevant sector including the medical, environmental engineering and science, genomics, bioinformatics, and environmental health sections.
Submission Deadline: 31 December 2023
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Nireas-International Water Research Center
University of Cyprus
Bernd M. Gawlik
European Commission, Joint Research Centre,
Directorate D - Sustainable Resources
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation