In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, McMaster University Faculty are proposing a Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (WBE) approach that involves investigating whether wastewater testing for coronavirus signatures can be leveraged as an early detection biomarker to assess community widespread of the disease in the province of Ontario. They see ongoing challenges with testing for COVID-19 including the availability of reliable test kits, cost logistics and the inherent limitations of current tracking for mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic members of the community. With a better understanding of the wastewater biomarkers, such monitoring can serve as a cost effective and efficient method of tracking COVID-19 disease progression at a community scale. In the long-term, McMaster University Faculty do want to assess the variation in the virus loads throughout the treatment train and how different disinfectants (including Ozone) can potentially inactivate these pathogens and implications to surface water (if any).
The benefit of this research is three-fold: 1) an estimation of the population of infected patients (both symptomatic and asymptomatic) within a community, 2) non-invasive tracking and surveillance techniques that can be easily implemented in the existing testing framework of wastewater systems across Ontario with minimal resource and cost implications, and 3) implementation of an Artificial Intelligence/Cloud Based Continuous data stream collection, monitoring and surveillance program that can be centrally located to provide wastewater plants, decision-makers and public health officials with critical real-time information for evidence-based decision-making.