SARS-CoV-2 water surveillance project findings published

Levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the influent of Dublin’s Ringsend wastewater treatment plant

The SARS-CoV-2 surveillance of sewage and water bodies project was launched in June 2020. Since then, weekly composite samples provided by Irish Water from the influent of Ringsend (Dublin), Shanganagh-Bray and Enniskerry wastewater treatment plants are analysed in Prof Wim Meijer’s laboratory. 

To measure the levels,  250 ml of each 24h-composite sewage sample is concentrated until a volume of 250 µl – 1 ml is obtained. After viral RNA extraction,  RT-qPCR assays for three viral markers are performed to detect the presence of the virus. This process takes around seven hours. Weekly reports are provided to NPHET, the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) and Irish Water. 

In recent weeks, the levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA have significantly increased compared to levels during the summer, and close match clinical data from the same period. Thus, wastewater offers an aggregate sample from an entire community and combined with clinical data allows critical monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 transmission within a community. This wastewater surveillance project is of immediate benefit to public health and our community  in identifying early COVID-19 warnings outbreaks.

This research is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme as part of the Acclimatize operation and by Science Foundation Ireland (20/COV/0159).

In the media

Since the publication of his team’s findings on the SARS-CoV-2 water surveillance project Prof Wim Meijer has been interviewed extensively on local and national media outlets

Below are links to Professor Meijer’s recent interviews:

RTE Radio 1 News at One 29/9/20

98FM News covid-19-rise-sewage-early- warning-outbreaks-1083046

Recent news paper articles:

Irish Independent 29/9/20 world-news/coronavirus/rising- levels-of-virus-in-sewage- could-be-early-warning-of- surge-39571218.html

Sunday Times 27/9/20

Irish Independent 23/8/20 irish-news/news/sewage- samples-and-saliva-tests-to- fight-virus-39470633.html

Other media articles include:

Irish Times 12/6/20

Irish Tech News 11/6/20

This article originally appeared on the UCD SBBS website at UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science | SARS-CoV-2 water surveillance project


This project has been part funded by the ERDF though the Ireland Wales Programme 2014 -2020.