TitleSARS-CoV-2 infection dynamics and genomic surveillance to detect variants in wastewater - a longitudinal study in Bengaluru, India.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsLamba S, Ganesan S, Daroch N, Paul K, Joshi SGopal, Sreenivas D, Nataraj A, Srikantaiah V, Mishra R, Ramakrishnan U, Ishtiaq F
JournalLancet Reg Health Southeast Asia
Date Published2023 Jan 18

BACKGROUND: Environmental surveillance (ES) of a pathogen is crucial for understanding the community load of disease. As an early warning system, ES for SARS-CoV-2 has complemented routine diagnostic surveillance by capturing near real-time virus circulation at a population level.

METHODS: In this longitudinal study conducted between January 2022 and June 2022 in 28 sewershed sites in Bengaluru city (∼11 million inhabitants), we quantified weekly SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations to track infection dynamics and provide evidence of change in the relative abundance of emerging variants.

FINDINGS: We describe an early warning system using the exponentially weighted moving average control chart and demonstrate how SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in wastewater correlated with clinically diagnosed new COVID-19 cases, with the trends appearing 8-14 days earlier in wastewater than in clinical data. This was further corroborated by showing that the estimated number of infections is strongly correlated with SARS-CoV-2 RNA copies detected in the wastewater. Using a deconvolution matrix, we detected emerging variants of concern up to two months earlier in wastewater samples. In addition, we found a huge diversity in variants detected in wastewater compared to clinical samples. The findings from this study have been discussed regularly with local authorities to inform policy-making decisions.

INTERPRETATION: Our study highlights that quantifying viral titre, correlating it with a known number of cases in the area, and combined with genomic surveillance helps in tracking variants of concern (VOC) over time and space, enabling timely and making informed policy decisions.

FUNDING: This work has been supported by funding from the Rockefeller Foundation grant to National Centre for Biological Sciences (TIFR) and the Indian Council of Medical Research grant to (FI) Tata Institute for Genetics and Society and Tata Trusts.

Alternate JournalLancet Reg Health Southeast Asia
PubMed ID36688230
PubMed Central IDPMC9847225