Wastewater-based epidemiology concept as an early warning system for SARS-CoV-2 trend and its circulating variants in a defined catchment

Acronym: WARNING
Principal investigator: Coralia Bleotu PhD

(2022-2024; PN-III-P2-2.1 PED-2021-4131) – Principal investigator: Coralia Bleotu PhD

Aim: The project aims to demonstrate that the early detection of an increasing trend in total SARS-CoV-2 concentration and the assessment of its circulating variants in wastewater represent the key factors in the pandemic containment. The main objectives are to develop and establish a surveillance procedure in order to track the dissemination of total SARS-CoV-2 concentration in untreated wastewater, to identify the specific circulating variants based on signature mutations and to demonstrate SARS-CoV-2 infectivity in untreated wastewater samples.

Partners: Coordinator: Institute of Virology Stefan S Nicolau – project director Dr. Coralia Bleotu

Partner 1: National Institute for Research and Development in Industrial Ecology ECOIND – responsible Dr. Mihai Nita-Lazar

Funding: 598.795,00 RON

Working team: Coralia Bleotu, Elena Radu, Carmen C. Diaconu, Denisa Dragu, Lilia Matei, Saviana Nedeianu, Marius Ataman, Ioana Pitica.

Project financed by UEFISCDI program PN-III-P2-2.1-PED-2021-4131, contract no. 705PED/2022

Implementation period: 21.06.2022 – 20.06.2024

Summary: Covid-19 disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and gave rise to a worldwide health emergency after only 2 months. Currently, more than 226 million cases have been confirmed and over 4.6 million deaths worldwide. In Romania, the numbers are raising with over 1.1 million confirmed cases and more than 35k deaths. The well-known lineages, B.1.1.7 (Alpha variant), B.1.351 (Beta variant), P.1 (Gamma variant) and B.1.617.2 (Delta variant) assigned as variants of concern (VOCs), show an increased transmissibility and higher infectivity. Lately, it has been observed that the VOCs exhibit an increased resistance towards the vaccines and therapies, especially the Delta variant. Considering the ascending number of infections with SARS-CoV-2 variants and the necessary time for the symptoms onset in infected individuals, a delay of the real active cases reported per day can be observed. Wastewater based epidemiology (WBE) proved to be a powerful tool for the early detection of SARS-CoV-2 concentrations in a certain catchment and to provide a quick snapshot about the circulating variants before they are seen in clinical cases. The scope of the project is to demonstrate that the early detection of an increasing trend in total SARS-CoV-2 concentration and assessment of its circulating variants in wastewater represent the key factor in the pandemic containment. Furthermore, the present proposal aims to demonstrate the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 in untreated wastewater samples from Bucharest, which is of paramount importance for the public health. Noteworthy, the study aims to support the collective efforts of the EU Sewage Sentinel System by implementing a wastewater-based surveillance approach in Romania as recommended by the European Commission. EU strongly encourages the member states to implement the wastewater surveillance system for SARS-CoV-2 and its variants before October 1st 2021.


Outcome Indicators:

Book chapter:

C.C. Diaconu, I. M. Pitica, M. Chivu-Economescu, L. G. Necula, A. Botezatu, I. V. Iancu, A. I. Neagu, Elena L. Radu, L. Matei, S. M. Ruta, C. Bleotu, 2022, “SARS-CoV-2 variant surveillance in genomic medicine era” in SARS-CoV-2 Variants – Two Years After, IntechOpen, ISBN 978-1-80356-234-6, Book edited by: Prof. Alfonso J. Rodriguez-Morales.

International conference:

Elena Radu, Lilia Matei, Denisa Dragu, Carmen Cristina Diaconu, Catalina Stoica, Mihai Nita, Dragos Radulescu, Norbert Kreuzinger, Coralia Bleotu, “Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) to track SARS-CoV-2 dissemination: a longitudinal study in Bucharest, Romania”, 10th FEMS Congress of European Microbiologists, Hamburg, Germany, 9-13 July 2023, Oral poster presentation.