Wastewater surveillance reveals COVID-19 transmission patterns in unsheltered encampments



To higher perceive COVID-19’s unfold in the course of the pandemic, public well being officers expanded wastewater surveillance. These efforts monitor SARS-CoV-2 ranges and well being dangers amongst most individuals, however they miss individuals who reside with out shelter, a inhabitants notably susceptible to extreme an infection. To fill this info hole, researchers reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Know-how Letters examined flood-control waterways close to unsheltered encampments, discovering related transmission patterns as within the broader neighborhood and figuring out beforehand unseen viral mutations.

In recent times, testing untreated wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 incidence and dominant viral variants, in addition to different pathogens, has been very important to serving to public well being officers decide infectious illness transmission in native communities. But, this monitoring solely captures info on viruses shed from human feces and urine in buildings which might be related to native sewage infrastructure. Past the pandemic’s affect on human well being, it additionally exacerbated socioeconomic difficulties and elevated the variety of individuals experiencing homelessness and dwelling in open-air encampments with out entry to indoor loos. To know the prevalence of COVID-19 amongst individuals who reside unsheltered, Edwin Oh and colleagues examined for SARS-CoV-2 in waterways close to encampments exterior Las Vegas from December 2021 via July 2022.

Utilizing quantitative polymerase chain response, the researchers recognized SARS-CoV-2 RNA in additional than 25% of the samples examined from two flood-control channels. The best detection frequency over the research interval aligned with Las Vegas’ first wave of omicron variant infections, as confirmed via parallel testing at an area wastewater remedy plant. The researchers say these outcomes counsel an identical stage of transmission was occurring inside the unsheltered neighborhood because it was among the many common inhabitants. Then the researchers performed complete genome sequencing to establish the SARS-CoV-2 variants within the waterways. These samples largely contained the identical variants recognized within the broader neighborhood. Deeper computational evaluation of the viral sequences recognized three novel viral spike protein mutations in some waterway samples, however the researchers haven’t but examined what affect these mutations might need on viral operate or medical outcomes. Regardless, the power to detect and establish SARS-CoV-2 in environmental water samples might assist enhance public well being measures for a neighborhood that’s usually underrepresented in present surveillance strategies. The researchers additionally say monitoring waterways might warn well being officers of surprising variants circulating locally.

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Journal reference:

Harrington, A., et al. (2024) Environmental Surveillance of Flood Management Infrastructure Impacted by Unsheltered People Results in the Detection of SARS-CoV-2 and Novel Mutations within the Spike Gene. Environmental Science & Know-how Letters. doi.org/10.1021/acs.estlett.3c00938.

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