PCR: Reference Technology for Wastewater Analysis
Fri 9 Sep, 2022
Wastewater-based epidemiology is an up-and-coming field of endeavor. Analytik Jena is now able to provide a complete solution that has proven itself for the detection of SARS-CoV 2 in wastewater – with a potential that promises much to come.
Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) based on PCR tests has been gaining ground as a method, with a potential that is now only beginning to be recognized. COVID monitoring in sewage treatment plants has given this development a boost.
"Experience has taught us: Whenever PCR is established in a field, it becomes indispensable."
Dr. Christoph Heddergott, Project Manager, Analytik Jena
Analytik Jena has developed a complete solution for this that requires only a few manual steps from initial sampling and sample preparation to the PCR results, and is otherwise automated and easily accessible even to non-specialist users. Within three to four hours, it is able to provide certain test results.
Ease of use for routine application
As Head of Microbiology at the EGLV and Ruhrverband cooperative lab, Dr. Christina Meinert-Berning is a first-generation user of the technique: “It is easy to use, which is decisive from the point of view of routine lab work.” Jens Olk, Operations and Project Manager at Chemische Untersuchungsamt Emden GmbH, agrees: “We managed to grasp the new process in a very short period of time and to obtain meaningful, reliable results. The process not only has potential, it’s just plain fun.”
For Dr. Benno Schneider, Managing Director at Eurofins Umwelt Ost GmbH Jena: "The sample preparation is particularly interesting as it is highly automated. This is no comparison to ultracentrifugation, which requires any number of manual steps, is structurally demanding with heavy equipment, and is not without its dangers at its high speeds."
"We managed to grasp the new process in a very short period of time and to obtain meaningful, reliable results. The process not only has potential, it’s just plain fun."
Jens Olk, Operations and Project Manager, Chemisches Untersuchungsamt Emden GmbH
Blazing the trail for wastewater monitoring
An EU recommendation dated March 17, 2021 stipulates that member countries should regularly monitor the SARS-CoV-2 virus load at sewage treatment plants serving more than 150,000 people. Analytik Jena was a step ahead: A functioning and tested workflow that fully meets these requirements was already available in November 2020. We launched the method together with the Emschergenossenschaft/Lippeverband (EGLV) in the Ruhr area, the largest water management association in Germany. Dr. Jens Schoth was in charge of the model project and was “confident that, using our model project, we can form the basis for a wastewater-based monitoring system.“
And the method’s potential reaches well beyond the COVID pandemic. As Analytik Jena program manager Dr. Robert Möller explained: “Using the same set of devices, you can trace the spread of other pathogens throughout the population.” Early warning and monitoring systems are conceivable, for example, for various viruses (hepatitis, polio, norovirus and influenza viruses), bacterial pathogens (salmonella, clostridia, legionella), and for the spread of antibiotic resistance. Jens Olk thinks here, in particular, of uses involving legionella: “Only microbiology is currently accepted officially, which takes several days to cultivate and detect the pathogen. With PCR, you can know within hours whether you have a problem or not.”
At the forefront of research
Analytik Jena is joining together with its partners to address open research issues. Dr. Christine Gräfe, Analytik Jena product manager, explained: “It was not so long ago that extracting genetic information from difficult samples at the sewage treatment plant was unthinkable. Above a certain concentration, we can do that today. The life sciences are developing rapidly and we are right at the center of it.”
Wastewater plant samples are seen to be difficult. As Prof. Silvio Beier, Professor of Technologies for Urban Material Flow Use, Bauhaus University Weimar, elaborated: “The influence of factors such as dilution effects and features peculiar to the catchment area of sewage treatment plants must be taken into account in order to reliably map the infection process.”
"Water and health are central to quality of life. Innovative approaches are therefore required, for which we are now establishing the standards."
Prof. Silvio Beier, Professor of Technologies for Urban Material Flow Use, Bauhaus University Weimar
A topic for the future
Mass testing at the sewage treatment plants does not require individuals to voluntarily participate, even as personal rights are still protected. This features low costs and great benefit in obtaining an early overview of the infection process. Robert Möller explained: “This can be used to build on the critical infrastructure, especially with a view to water recycling, in order to protect the population and avert threats.” Silvio Beier finds that this will be of particular importance in the future as well, adding: “Water and health are central to quality of life. Innovative approaches are therefore required, for which we are now establishing the standards.”
What our solution is proven for:
In round robin tests, our workflow and the assays used have proven effective in wastewater analysis for SARS-CoV-2 in several different laboratories.
We are active in the following:
Analytik Jena is involved in the CoroMoni network project of the Deutsche Vereinigung für Wasserwirtschaft, Abwasser und Abfall (German Association for Water, Wastewater, and Waste – DWA).
Together with Weimar’s Bauhaus University, Analytik Jena is a partner in the CoMoTH project (Corona Monitoring in Thuringia) involving 23 sewage treatment plants, which covers around 50% of the Thuringian population. CoMoTH aims at comprehensive wastewater monitoring in the state and is therefore unique in Germany.
The project of the InfectoGnostics Jena research campus aims at an analysis system for process-oriented pathogen detection in wastewater systems in order to monitor infectious pathogens and resistance genes. Four complementary detection methods are combined in an open platform. Analytik Jena is one of the partners in this public-private partnership, dedicated to finding new means of diagnosing infections.
Life Science & Liquid Handling Workflow: SpeedMill PLUS, InnuPure C16, CyBio FeliX, qTOWER³Download file
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