Traditional and molecular indicators to characterise sewage in wastewater-based epidemiology

IWA Wastewater-based epidemiology, microbial source tracking, microorganisms, faecal indicators

Target Audience

Microbiologists, Researchers from Universities and Institutes, Epidemiologists, Risk Evaluators, Modelers, Officers from Public Health Sectors


The webinar will give an overview on available microbial source tracking (MST) technologies and faecal indicators to support wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE). The webinar will focus on data interpretation, improving data comparability and quality control from sewage surveillance activities. Presentation/discussion of MST markers and indicators (bacterial, viral, others) which enable:

  • the specific tracking of human sewage pollution,
  • the characterisation of unknown sewage effluents,
  • the normalisation of SARS-CoV-2 qPCR data, and
  • the determination of microbial/viral treatment efficacies of WWTP.

Molecular (e.g. PCR based) and cultivation-based diagnostic methods will also be discussed.

This webinar will attract a global audience with interest in learning about how to investigate human specific faecal pollution in water environments to support wastewater based surveillance (WBE) and environmental water monitoring. Participants should have some knowledge of microbiology, public health and related disciplines, and an understanding of how to get epidemiology-related data from wastewater and environmental water monitoring.

Learning Objectives

Following this webinar, participants will know:

  • useful MST markers (including bacterial and viral) to specifically track human faecal pollution and to differentiate from animal pollution,
  • how to apply MST markers and indicators to sewage effluents and,
  • how to use MST marker for normalisation of SARS-CoV-2 qPCR data


Webinar resources

Download the Webinar presentation here.

Download the Webinar Q&A here.


Please find below webinar resources suggested by the Panelists.

  • Lee et al., 2021a – Quantitative SARS-CoV-2 Alpha Variant B.1.1.7 Tracking in Wastewater by Allele-Specific RT-qPCR. ES&T Letters (
  • Lee et al., 2021b – Quantitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant in wastewater through allele-specific RT-qPCR. medRxiv (
  • Presence of SARS-Coronavirus-2 RNA in Sewage and Correlation with Reported COVID-19 Prevalence in the Early Stage of the Epidemic in The Netherlands, G. Medema, L. Heijnen, G. Elsinga, R. Italiaander, and A. Brouwer, Environmental Science & Technology Letters 2020 7 (7), 511-516, DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.0c00357
  • Implementation of environmental surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 virus to support public health decisions: Opportunities and challenges, G. Medema, F. Been, L. Heijnen, S. Petterson, Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health, Volume 17, 2020, Pages 49-71,
    ISSN 2468-5844,
  • High-Frequency, High-Throughput Quantification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in Wastewater Settled Solids at Eight Publicly Owned Treatment Works in Northern California Shows Strong Association with COVID-19 Incidence, M. K. Wolfe, A. Topol, A. Knudson, A. Simpson, B. White, D. J. Vugia, A. T. Yu, L. Li, M. Balliet, P. Stoddard, G. S. Han, K. R. Wigginton, A. B. Boehm, mSystem,2021, DOI
  • Estimating relative abundance of two SARS-CoV-2 variants through wastewater surveillance at two large metropolitan sites, A. Yu, B. Hughes, M. Wolfe et al. , 2021, PREPRINT (Version 1) available at Research Square,
  • Occurrence of human-associated Bacteroidetes genetic source tracking markers in raw and treated wastewater of municipal and domestic origin and comparison to standard and alternative indicators of faecal pollution, R.E. Mayer, S. Bofill-Mas, L. Egle, G.H. Reischer, M. Schade, X. Fernandez-Cassi, W. Fuchs, R.L. Mach, G. Lindner, A. Kirschner, M. Gaisbauer, H. Piringer, A.P. Blaschke, R. Girones, M. Zessner, R. Sommer, A.H. Farnleitner, Water Research, Volume 90, 2016, Pages 265-276, ISSN 0043-1354,
  • Automated Sampling Procedures Supported by High Persistence of Bacterial Fecal Indicators and Bacteroidetes Genetic Microbial Source Tracking Markers in Municipal Wastewater during Short-Term Storage at 5°C, R. E. Mayer, J. Vierheilig, L. Egle, G. H. Reischer, E. Saracevic, R. L. Mach, A. K. T. Kirschner, M. Zessner, R. Sommer, A. H. Farnleitner, D. W. Schaffner, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2015,


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