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Journal of Water and Health Special Issue on:

Wastewater-Based Epidemiology at the Frontier of Global Public Health


Lessons learned from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have emphasised that good public health practice is best enabled by multi-stakeholder engagement, utilising open and transparent processes that can facilitate rapid delivery of interventions regardless of location or resource availability. Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is an approach that has been utilised widely to support local, regional, and national pandemic response programmes in several countries worldwide. The relatively unbiased ability to detect and quantify SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater has been demonstrated to support clinical testing efforts at a fraction of the cost, often providing knowledge to public health decision-makers ahead of clinical data. Wastewater surveillance has a particular advantage where clinical testing is not routinely performed due to geographic, resource or cost limitations, where asymptomatic testing is not performed, to validate community transmission trends when clinical testing rates are variable or changing, or during times of low disease prevalence.

Wastewater-based epidemiology has been shown to have a range of uses beyond the detection of sewage-borne diseases. Monitoring of wastewater has generated data from behavioural and physical indicators of population well-being and health, using a range of chemical- and bio- markers. As the applications of WBE continue to increase and demonstrate value for public health stakeholders more broadly, the need for science and health practitioners to formalise the field as part of a ‘One Health’ approach at regional and national scales, is imperative. This will require highly multi-disciplinary collaboration within the science and health domains, and beyond, from mathematics, engineering, data and social sciences and economics. Establishing wastewater-based epidemiology at the frontier of global public health efforts, most importantly, requires adoption from policy makers, regulators and government. This will require further efforts, beyond extant research and policy, to overcome the challenges currently faced by early adopters of WBE and, ultimately, demonstration of value and sustainability of the approaches that will improve the health of people worldwide. A core element to this will be the provision of government funding and support for practitioners to understand and best use the information generated by WBE activities.

This Special Issue presents a broad view of WBE thinking and practice, delineating the current understanding and future potential of the field. The topics covered range from geographically distinct reports on the use of WBE to inform on pathogen circulation in a population, through technical developments and data utility, to commentaries on future challenges and opportunities including for WBE ‘beyond the Pandemic’.


Guest Editors:

Dr Matthew Wade (UK Health Security Agency, UK),
Dr Joshua Bunce (UK Health Security Agency, UK),
Assoc. Prof. Susan Petterson (Griffith University and Water & Health Pty Ltd, Australia),
Dr Christobel Ferguson (Water Research Foundation, USA),
Dra Nohelia Castro del Campo (Research Centre in Food and Development, Mexico),
Dr Erica Gaddis (Utah Department of Environmental Quality, USA)


Editorial: Wastewater-based epidemiology at the frontier of global public health

Matthew J. Wade, Joshua T. Bunce, Susan Petterson, Christobel Ferguson, Nohelia Castro del Campo, Erica Gaddis, Panagiotos Karanis

J Water Health (1 March 2023) 21 (3): 3–6.




Detection and abundance of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater in Liechtenstein, and the estimation of prevalence and impact of the B.1.1.7 variant

R. Markt, L. Endler, F. Amman, A. Schedl, T. Penz, M. Büchel-Marxer, D. Grünbacher , M. Mayr, E. Peer, M. Pedrazzini, W. Rauch, A. O. Wagner, F. Allerberger, A. Bergthaler, H. Insam

J Water Health (1 January 2022) 20 (1): 114–125.




Wastewater monitoring of COVID-19: a perspective from Scotland

Zhou Fang, Adrian M. I. Roberts, Claus-Dieter Mayer, Anastasia Frantsuzova, Jackie M. Potts, Graeme J. Cameron, Peter T. R. Singleton, Iona Currie

J Water Health (1 December 2022) 20 (12): 1688–1700.




Monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater: what normalisation for improved understanding of epidemic trends?

Charlotte Sakarovitch, Olivier Schlosser, Sophie Courtois, Cécile Proust-Lima, Joanne Couallier, Agnès Pétrau, Xavier Litrico, Jean-François Loret

J Water Health (1 April 2022) 20 (4): 712–726.




Modeling the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater or sludge and COVID-19 cases in three New England regions

Elyssa Anneser, Emily Riseberg, Yolanda M. Brooks, Laura Corlin, Christina Stringer

J Water Health (1 May 2022) 20 (5): 816–828.




A case study of a community-organized wastewater surveillance in a small community: correlating weekly reported COVID-19 cases with SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations during fall 2020 to summer 2021 in Yarmouth, ME

Yolanda M. Brooks, Bailey Gryskwicz, Eilidh Sidaway, Brianna Shelley, Laura Coroi, Margaret Downing, Tom Downing, Sharon McDonnell, Dan Ostrye, Katrina Hoop, Gib Parrish

J Water Health (1 March 2023) 21 (3): 329–342.




Challenges in realising the potential of wastewater-based epidemiology to quantitatively monitor and predict the spread of disease

Julian Faraway, James Boxall-Clasby, Edward J. Feil, Marjorie J. Gibbon, Oliver Hatfield, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Theresa Smith

J Water Health (1 July 2022) 20 (7): 1038–1050.




Prevalence of enteric viruses in wastewater in Egypt after the COVID-19 pandemic

Dina Nadeem Abd-Elshafy, Rola Nadeem, Mahmoud Mohamed Bahgat

J Water Health (1 November 2022) 20 (11): 1668–1672.




Monitoring the exposure and emissions of antibiotic resistance: Co-occurrence of antibiotics and resistance genes in wastewater treatment plants

Ruud Steenbeek, Peer H. A. Timmers, Danielle van der Linde, Kay Hup, Luc Hornstra, Frederic Been

J Water Health (1 August 2022) 20 (8): 1157–1170.




Modeling infection from SARS-CoV-2 wastewater concentrations: promise, limitations, and future directions

Jeffrey Soller, Wiley Jennings, Mary Schoen, Alexandria Boehm, Krista Wigginton, Raul Gonzalez, Katherine E. Graham, Graham McBride, Amy Kirby, Mia Mattioli

J Water Health (1 August 2022) 20 (8): 1197–1211.




Research needs for optimising wastewater-based epidemiology monitoring for public health protection

Katie Robins, Anne F. C. Leonard, Kata Farkas, David W. Graham, David L. Jones, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Joshua T. Bunce, Jasmine M. S. Grimsley, Matthew J. Wade, Andrew M. Zealand, Shannon McIntyre-Nolan

J Water Health (1 September 2022) 20 (9): 1284–1313.



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