Wastewater Surveillance & Epidemiology at Multiple Scales
Our group is working on a number of wastewater focused research projects. Over the 2020/21 academic year, Dr.s Pruden & Vikesland (pictured) in Environmental Engineering led an initiative with collaborators across Virginia Tech (and at HRSD) to collect and analyze wastewater samples from different buildings and sites across the university campus with the goal of developing a coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) surveillance program. Wastewater surveillance has been used by many other research groups, as well as wastewater utilities, to monitor SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., the virus that causes COVID-19) trends. Our primary research objective for that study was to evaluate the use of wastewater-based surveillance and epidemiologic methods to monitor and predict SARS-CoV-2 virus trends at sub-sewershed scales. Using pre-specified methods, our analyses showed that the detection of SARS-CoV-2 genes in wastewater samples was associated with statistically significant increases in COVID-19 cases 8 days after sample collection. We published our methods and findings from this research in 2022 and continue to collaborate and expand on this work in other settings. Starting in 2020, our group also supported wastewater surveillance efforts led by colleagues at the Virginia Department of Health (Dr. Degen) the Roanoke Health District, UVA (Dr. Taniuchi), and Radford University (Dr. Tolliver). In the summer of 2022, our research group (in collaboration with other VT faculty, students, and Dr. Taniuchi’s group at UVA) initiated a new wastewater surveillance and epidemiology study in collaboration with a wastewater utility in southwest VA; we started a monthly sub-sewershed sampling campaign in September 2022, and anticipate publishing initial findings from this project by/before 2024.