Wastewater-based testing has emerged as an innovative approach in infectious disease epidemiology, offering a promising method to quickly and efficiently determine potential trends in pathogen prevalence across entire communities, without obtaining clinical specimens. Both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers shed SARS-CoV-2 in their feces; therefore, wastewater measurements reflect trends in community-level transmission on a near-real-time basis. Beginning in May 2020, following the shut down of UGA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lipp Lab began a weekly monitoring project to track levels of SARS-CoV-2 in Athens GA wastewater. This has provided an independent method to assess trends in the outbreak at UGA and around Athens. The Lipp Lab's wastewater monitoring data can be accessed on our dashboard. We update the dashboard weekly.
Viral Sequencing from Wastewater
Wastewater can also be mined for viral genomes to provide a method of understanding viral sequence dynamics and evolution at a community scale. Wastewater sampling has the potential to provide community level sequence analysis at a large scale by pooling samples from the entire population to track how viruses spread and evolve within or across entire populations over time. The Lipp Lab has partnered with UGA's Glenn and Bahl Labs to optimize methods for the sequencing and analysis of SARS-CoV-2 viruses from wastewater to help discover the emergence and spread of distinct SARS-CoV-2 variants, identify known variants of concern, and help track potential variants that may be subject to vaccine or diagnostic escape.