News Feature | August 16, 2022

COVID Wastewater Monitoring Techniques Adapted To Track Monkeypox

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


As wastewater analysis has proven a critical tool in combating the spread of coronavirus, researchers now plan to leverage these techniques in the fight against the next high-profile pandemic.

“The same wastewater surveillance techniques that have emerged as a critical tool in early detection of COVID-19 outbreaks are being adapted for use in monitoring the startling spread of monkeypox across the San Francisco Bay Area and some other U.S. communities,” NPR reported. “The Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network, or SCAN, is now a leader in expanding wastewater monitoring to detect monkeypox, a once-obscure virus endemic to remote regions of Africa that in a matter of months has infected more than 26,000 people globally and more than 7,000 across the U.S.”

The potential for wastewater analysis to provide early indicators about disease spread has long been understood by treatment professionals and researchers in the space. But the global rise of COVID-19 demonstrated to the general public just how insightful this data can be, so much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published it to its national COVID-19 dashboard.

And monkeypox is not the only other high-profile disease being tracked via wastewater research. Researchers turned to the practice for help in understanding a surprising resurgence of polio in New York. In another sign of this growing trend, SCAN is now offering free wastewater monitoring services to local governments looking to keep tabs on COVID-19, monkeypox, and other diseases.

“Along with COVID and monkeypox, [wastewater analysis] technology has shown promise for monitoring flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV,” per NPR. “The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning pilot studies to see whether sewage can reveal trends in antibiotic-resistant infections, foodborne illnesses and candida auris, a fungal infection.”

In San Diego, researchers are finding that the COVID-19 monitoring techniques are providing helpful information for monitoring monkeypox already, though results are preliminary.

“Researchers are still not sure if the testing will be as accurate as the COVID system, but they can tell the monkeypox viral load is increasing along with the number of cases,” FOX 5 reported.

To read more about how researchers leverage wastewater data to combat diseases, visit Water Online’s Wastewater Analysis Solutions Center.