EU Recommends Common Approach to Systematic Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in EU Wastewaters

Deepverge is pleased to be fully aligned with the Commission of the European Union recommendation of 17.3.2021 on a common approach to establish systematic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants in wastewaters in the EU. The recommendation stated that “Wastewater monitoring should be considered as a complementary and independent approach to COVID-19 surveillance and testing strategies” and went on to say “It is therefore critical that the Member States put in place effective wastewater surveillance systems ensuring that relevant data are promptly provided to competent health authorities.”

We had already anticipated the opportunity and requirement of monitoring wastewater for the  SARS-CoV-2 virus and our research and development in this area began in 2020. Our capability leverages the successful product testing using Labskin with the SARS-CoV-2 virus with University of Aberdeen, Public Health England, University of Liverpool, Cork Institute of Technology and the work completed with industry partners including Dell Technologies, Unilever and the Water Rising Institute, as well as our deep knowledge of the water and waste sector via Modern Waters’ thirty years of industry-leading experience with its Microtox toxicity instrumentation monitoring suite.

The Commission aim is to make greater use of a new source of independent information on the spread of the virus and its variants, which will make a significant and cost-effective contribution to public health decision-making.

The Recommendation asks the Member States to put in place wastewater surveillance systems and ensure that relevant data is promptly provided to the competent health authorities. Common methods for sampling, measurement and data analysis, supported by a European exchange platform should be made available and used to ensure that the collected data is reliable and comparable. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Today’s recommendation is the outcome of an unprecedented alliance between the European water sector, the public health sector and the scientific community, with the Commission’s Joint Research Centre providing the necessary scientific know-how and infrastructure, and acting as an innovation uptake accelerator. This scientific push has enabled the Commission to take swift action in support of EU Member States’ continuing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “The evolution and spread of variants of COVID-19 are a real threat to our effective response to the crisis. It is important that all available means are fully utilised to detect the virus and its variants, so as to provide appropriate and timely responses. The use of wastewater surveillance can provide a cost-effective, rapid and reliable source of information which would assist us in combatting the virus. It is also a good example of the multiple benefits of modern environmental infrastructure to our health and well-being”.

It is crucial to support the sharing of best practices between Member States, but also with third countries that may not readily have access to such data. The Commission will provide financial assistance to support wastewater surveillance activities and the systematic analysis of variants as well as to create a dedicated European exchange platform.

The Recommendation is part of a set of COVID-19 measures adopted by the Commission as announced in the European preparedness plan entitled the ‘HERA Incubator’, which builds on an EU Umbrella Initiative of the Commission collecting the knowledge and experience in Member States regarding the surveillance of COVID-19 and its variants in wastewaters.

Deepverge is focused on further development alongside partners such as the Aptamer Group, Tyndall Foundries and a number of undisclosed partners to investigate new variants of SARS-CoV-2 by adding a multiplex nano-chip to test for a range of infectious viruses and bacteria on a single chip for the MicrotoxPD range of equipment for detection and identification of SARS-CoV-2, E.coli, Legionella and Cryptosporidium. This will also add capability to our EcoWater OS platform where AI and real-time data analytics techniques will be applied to massive time-series databases to search and trends to allow better future predictability of the presence of “bad actors” in our water and wastewater networks, aligning with the Commission position that “An analysis of trends in results is also valuable for monitoring the effectiveness of measures put in place to curb virus transmission. Monitoring trends of viral concentration of SARS-CoV-2 variants in wastewater can therefore inform preparedness and response measures. It is therefore critical that Member States put in place effective wastewater surveillance systems ensuring that relevant data are promptly provided to competent health authorities.”

Deepverge and its partners look forward to rapid and positive development of this capability.

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