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Journal of Water and Health Special Issue on

Wastewater-Based Epidemiology at the Frontier of Global Public Health




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)

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.

We invite submissions on the following topics, and are especially keen to receive scientific papers that scope out the role of WBE in contributing to future health resilience, technologies to improve analyte detection and quantification, and the importance of policy in shaping and supporting WBE integration in regional, national and international public health practice, specifically as a tool for human health protection:


  • WBE governance, ethics and policy
  • Applications of WBE in practice and its use for public health decision-making
  • Operationalising wastewater surveillance (Requirements, response, optimal scale, and resilience),
  • Wastewater sampling design, optimisation, processing and technologies (e.g., active, passive samplers; frequency; balancing precision, accuracy, and consistency)
  • Environmental and contact surface monitoring and the role of pathogen dispersion close to source
  • Data science and models for understanding and using WBE data to inform public health decisions and public information (e.g., mobile testing, educational intervention, trend visualisation)
  • Machine learning, AI and digitalisation for WBE insights and visualisation
  • Use of WBE for understanding COVID-19 dynamics and emergence and evolution of variants
  • Use of WBE for non-pathogenic determinands
  • Communication of WBE between medical, engineering and science domains
  • Application of WBE in Low and Middle Income Countries
  • WBE and low-cost technologies and democracies of scale


We are particularly interested to receive contributions from Low and Middle Income Countries describing the needs, opportunities and challenges of implementing WBE for public health in these regions.


Manuscript Submission Information

Research, review, perspective and short communication papers are invited. A manuscript proposal, composed of a title, author information and short abstract (up to 300 words), should be sent to the Journal Office: Please make sure to put in the email subject line “Wastewater-Based Epidemiology at the frontier of global public health”, by the 15th October 2021 prior to the full manuscript preparation and submission. Authors will receive an invitation letter for submission upon approval of the Guest Editors.


Important dates

  • Deadline for proposals: 31st October 2021
  • Deadline for full paper submission: 1st January 2022
  • Expected Publication: April 2022
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