Controlling viral disease outbreaks globally with wastewater-based epidemiology

    This eBook details the development of groundbreaking wastewater-based epidemiology and its importance in identifying and combatting future infectious disease outbreaks worldwide.

    The COVID-19 pandemic caused a cascade of devastating effects to permeate across the globe, tasking medical science with its most dangerous, prevalent, and adapting infectious disease adversary in over a century.

    Emanating in China’s Wuhan region in 2019, this novel strain of coronavirus spread rapidly throughout the population due to a worldwide lack of immunity to the disease. In just a few short months, COVID-19 had infected more than half a million people and caused tens of thousands of deaths. Current data from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that as of 2023, there have been over 760 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 6.8 million deaths.

    What made controlling the COVID-19 outbreak challenging?

    There were numerous factors that made controlling the outbreak of COVID-19 particularly challenging. Firstly, accurately mapping which regions had the highest incidence of the disease was difficult due to a lack of effective testing technology at the start of the outbreak, which meant that infected individuals were unknowingly passing the virus on to others, and governments could not implement measures, such as lockdowns, fast enough to control the spread.

    Additionally, insufficient information on disease symptoms and infection control measures to curb its dissemination and the evolution of novel variants of the virus meant that for many months, COVID-19 was always one step ahead.

    We now know that the predominant transmission routes of the disease are via inhaling aerosolised droplets of SARS-CoV-2 and person-to-person contact. Because of this, the tests used to detect the disease were viral tests that analyse infection by testing specimens from the nose or mouth. These tests include nucleic acid amplification tests (PCR-based tests) and antigen tests. Data from this testing was then employed to map areas in which the disease was most concentrated so that authorities could take appropriate action.

    However, emerging research suggested an alternative transmission path. Infections were also found to be caused by viral RNA in the faeces of people infected with COVID-19 and in wastewater. This groundbreaking discovery is what prompted the world-leading research of Hokkaido University’s Associate Professor Masaaki Kitajima.

    The use of wastewater-based epidemiology to track and identify viruses

    Kitajima’s team has explored the use of wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) to identify and track viruses excreted in the faeces of an entire community.

    Their revolutionary methods can help to trace viruses, such as COVID-19, throughout an entire population to effectively estimate disease prevalence in a region to help control its spread.

    About the eBook

    In this eBook, written in partnership with the Innovation News Network, Masaaki Kitajima details the development of the groundbreaking WBE technology and its importance in identifying and combatting future infectious disease outbreaks worldwide.

    This eBook explores:

    • Hokkaido University’s wastewater-based technology;
    • How the technology tracks viral disease dynamics;
    • The EPISENS-S method; and
    • The development of the COPMAN method.

    To read and download this full eBook ‘Controlling viral disease outbreaks globally with wastewater-based epidemiology’ for free, click here.

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