Wastewater Gone Viral: Pandemic Signals From the Sewers
Thursday 15 September | 09:00 -09:50
Gertjan Medema, Principal Microbiologist at KWR and Professor of Water & Health at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, will give a keynote speech on Wastewater Gone Viral: Pandemic Signals From the Sewers during Thursday’s morning plenary at the World Water Congress.
Gertjan Medema is Principal Microbiologist at KWR Water Research Institute and Professor of Water & Health at Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands and Distinguished Hannah Visiting Professor at Michigan State University. His research focuses on understanding the transmission of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance via water systems, and how this can be prevented. This includes the development of methods for detection and removal of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and antimicrobial resistance in water, conducting Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment and epidemiological research on the health effects of water systems, and providing advice for the design of safe water systems and policies. He recently initiated research on wastewater-based epidemiology of COVID-19. Gertjan is director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Water Quality and Health at KWR and advises WHO and the European Commission on the microbial safety of water and water reuse, and on wastewater surveillance.
In the wake of the pandemic, wastewater emerged as a non-invasive, low-cost, community-level source of information about COVID-19 circulation in our cities. A good idea that spread rapidly, with more than 70 countries now looking for COVID-19 signals in the sewers. And not only in sewers, also other forms of sanitation are monitored. Wastewater surveillance provided early warning of the emergence of the virus, including of new variants-of-concern, alerting health authorities, general practitioners and the public. Wastewater is more inclusive (everyone goes to the toilet), unbiased and objective (not everyone goes to the test-center) than traditional public health surveillance. Sewage is a valuable source of information for public health; for infectious diseases: COVID-19, monkeypox, polio, but also for antimicrobial resistance, illicit drugs and opioids. Sewage surveillance can be a broad mirror to society, but is also new and needs receptive health agencies as well as water utilities. Maybe not surprisingly, the closer the collaboration between the health and water sector, the better the value. With wastewater epidemiology gone viral, the sewage surveillance infrastructure in place and the interface between water and public health (re)established, now is the time to further expand its opportunities for pandemic preparedness and health surveillance. Let’s step through the looking glass.
“With wastewater epidemiology gone viral, the sewage surveillance infrastructure in place and the interface between water and public health (re)established, now is the time to further expand its opportunities for pandemic preparedness and health surveillance.” adds Gertjan Medema