Sewage monitoring for infectious diseases is likely here to stay, Elizabeth Tracey reports


You probably don’t think about sewage much but worldwide, many public health experts are increasingly turning to monitoring the stuff for infectious diseases, especially viruses. Stuart Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, says this has been one of the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ray: Sewage can be so valuable to us in epidemics, and I think it also underscores our learnings that we need for Covid, because this virus probably does infect the gut but maybe isn’t transmissible that way but it does leave a signature in sewage and so we can use that as a tool. So I think that we’re going to do more surveillance, and the power of molecular biology for all the things it’s doing for us. For managing cancer, for diagnosing all these things and so this is another example of molecular biology really changing the way we manage risk.  :30

Ray notes that the worldwide recognition of monkeypox is also being monitored in this way, and predicts that sewage surveillance will become standard practice going forward, helping in early recognition efforts of emerging infectious disease outbreaks and novel pathogens. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.