Early detection of Omicron variant with wastewater surveillance

IWA Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE); WBE surveillance; Omicron variant; COVID-19; Variants of Concern (VOCs)

Target Audience

Universities, public and private research and testing laboratories, public health sector, municipalities, wastewater treatment plants.


Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (WBE) continues to be a valuable tool in predicting COVID-19 outbreaks and the emergence of new Variants of Concern (VOC). The B.1.1.529 variant – designated Omicron – was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) by South Africa. On the 26th of November 2021, the WHO successively designated it as a VOC. Many countries have also reported the variant in their patients, and the detection has coincided with the emergence of the fourth wave in some places.

Due to a large number of mutations, it is hypothesised that this VOC may result in an increased risk of reinfection, and it is still not clear if vaccines are as effective against it. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant, and several laboratories have reported that one of the three target genes is not present.

Based on clinical data trends and the emergence of this variant as a VOC, researchers are using the WBE approach to determine the presence of the Omicron variant in wastewater samples. This webinar aims to share the early successful detection and monitoring of the Omicron variant in wastewater and assist the international community in their efforts to use WBE to track the occurrence and spread of the Omicron variant. This webinar will present the latest methodology and approaches for detecting the Omicron variant in wastewater samples as part of WBE.



Dr. Sudhir Pillay, Research Manager, Water Research Commission, South Africa

Dr. Banu Ormeci, Professor and Jarislowsky Chair in Water and Global Health, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carleton University, Canada

Learning Objectives


International Water Association, Covid-19 Task Force


  • Prof. Joan Rose, Professor at Michigan State University, United States (moderator)
  • Dr. Warish Ahmed, Senior Research Scientist at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia
  • Dr. Gertjan Medema, Principal Microbiologist at KWR, the Netherlands
  • Dr. Alexandria Boehm, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, USA
  • Dr. Aaron Bivins, Assistant Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering, Louisiana State University, USA
  • Dr. Jesper Gamst Managing Director, Eurofins Environment Testing, Denmark