As GenomeWeb has reported, molecular wastewater-based epidemiology first took off as a means of helping public health officials track and grapple with illegal drug, especially, opioid use, but the field pivoted at the outset of the pandemic to tracing SARS-CoV-2. Researchers from Biobot Analytics reported in April 2020 that wastewater surveillance could detect SARS-CoV-2, and Yale University researchers found that such sampling could identify an upswing in cases about a week earlier than other approaches. Schools like the University of Arizona and Chicago and other cities have adopted such testing, as have countries like the UK and France.
Time magazine adds that infrastructure supporting viral sewage monitoring has also increased with, for instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention establishing a National Wastewater Surveillance Program and a portal through which that data is analyzed and returned to public health departments with policy ideas. The hope, it notes, is to incorporate wastewater testing into public health labs to keep an eye on not only SARS-CoV-2 and any new viral variants, but also future pathogens that may pose a threat to people.