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SARS-CoV-2 (RNA) in communal wastewater: risks and opportunities

Project summary

In a large proportion of people infected with the COVID-19 virus, the virus (RNA) is found in the feces, in concentrations of up to 100 million per gram. This ends up in the communal waste water. To determine whether SARS-CoV-2 was present in communal wastewater during the emergence of COVID-19 in the Netherlands, KWR tested wastewater from 7 cities and Schiphol. This showed that the virus was detectable in the sewage water early in the Dutch outbreak (March 5). RIVM measured in parallel and came to similar conclusions. RIVM is now implementing a national communal waste water surveillance program. In other countries, the virus RNA has also been found in the wastewater that arrives at wastewater treatment. These findings raised many questions about the potential risks of exposure to wastewater, as well as the idea that (early) detection in wastewater of SARS-CoV-2 RNA will set up an alert system for reviving COVID.


The findings of this research will also be viewed in an international context by comparing them with the results of (inter) national (waste water) surveillance. The findings and samples from this study can also be used to improve the surveillance of other (enteral) viruses and reference viruses.

More detailed information

Principal Investigator:

Gertjan Medema

Role Erasmus MC:




Project website:

Not available

Funding Agency:

Erasmus MC Foundation