Wastewater-based Epidemiology

Monitoring wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 is a reliable and cost-effective method for the early detection of the spread of infection and the emergence of virus variants. The goal is to include the results of wastewater analytics in political decision making and to use it strategically when introducing or relaxing protective measures. Some countries are already using wastewater analytics in their efforts to cope with the Covid crisis. Furthermore, other pathogens, opioids, and other parameters relevant for public health can also be detected in wastewater


Review: Polio, plague and the pandemic

With this event, Technologieland Hessen invites international players in the field of wastewater-based epidemiology to discuss the great benefit of wastewater analyses for pandemic control together with representatives from business, science and politics. 


For centuries, mankind repeatedly had to fight new and old epidemics. And it was only in the modern era that improved hygiene conditions and the development of sewage systems brought an end to many infectious diseases. Today, there is even great potential in wastewater for combating current dangers. Because through its analysis, the spread of pathogens in the population can be monitored with little effort, future outbreaks can be detected and contained with appropriate measures.

Environmental surveillance of wastewater has been in the WHO's repertoire against polio since the 1980s and since then establish itself in the public health systems of many countries. With the corona pandemic, the concept has now moved into the global spotlight. The US health protection agency has already set up its own system and all EU countries are also called to establish a national wastewater monitoring system by October.

Researchers from Hesse have already been able to demonstrate the feasibility of such a system for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 and its mutants several times. In addition, there are numerous potential areas of application beyond Corona – from waterborne germs and antibiotic-resistant strains to other infectious diseases. It is now up to science, industry and authorities to join forces and exploit the possibilities of wastewater monitoring for the benefit of human health.

After an introduction to the history of epidemic control and wastewater monitoring, the focus of the programme is therefore on the current Corona challenge as well as on the question of how the concept can be used for other pathogens in the future.


- All times in CEST -
Thursday: July 15th, 2021
13:00 Welcome

13:10 Setting the scene: disease control and sewage monitoring
Plague. Power. Society. A historical perspective on pandemics Flagge Deutschland
Prof. Karl-Heinz Leven, Director of the Institute for History and Ethics of Medicines, FAU, Germany

Environmental Surveillance: use for Polio Eradication and beyond 
Dr. Ousmane M. Diop, Global Coordinator of the Polio Laboratory Network, WHO-HQ, Swiss

14:00 Fighting the pandemic: corona monitoring in wastewater
The EU Sewage Sentinel System for SARS-CoC-2 and its variants (EU4S) – Realisation under the framework for the EC Recommendation Flagge Deutschland
Dr. Bernd Manfred Gawlik, Portfolio Leader Water Quality, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Italy

On the trails of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater - what we can learn from this pandemic Flagge Deutschland 
Prof. Susanne Lackner, Chair of Wastewater Engineering, Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany

14:50 Short Break (10')
From pilot to full-scale; implementing wastewater monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in Denmark
Dr. Sofie Midgley, Senior Scientist, Division of Infectious Disease Preparedness, Statens Serum Institut, Denmark

Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s Pandemic Response
Kevin Shafer, Executive Director, MMSD, United States

15:50 Open Discussion

16:20 Short Break (10')

16:30 Beyond Covid: pathogens and infectious diseases
Data and Tools for Understanding Global Waterborne Pathogens
Dr. Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research, Michigan State University, United States

Biobot: a wastewater-based outbreak detection and mitigation platform
Dr. Mariana Matus, CEO & Cofounder of Biobot Analytics, United States

Antimicrobial resistance - Detection of multiresistant pathogens in the water cycle Flagge Deutschland 
Gudrun Bettge-Weller & Susanne Harpel, Centre for Health Protection at the Hesse Health State Office, Germany

17:40 Open Discussion

18:00 End

Host: Dr. Felix Kaup, Hessen Trade & Invest

The conference languages are Englisch and German
German lectures Flagge Deutschland will be translated to English simultaneously


Conference Report

Review: Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in the Sewage System

With this event, Technologieland Hessen brought together companies and scientists from the fields of wastewater treatment, PCR analytics and data sciences with representatives from the public health service to discuss the challenges and solutions for setting up a wastewater monitoring system.


Life during the corona pandemic is associated with far-reaching restrictions for society and the economy. However, if new sources of infection are detected early, targeted protective measures can be taken to counteract them. There is increasing evidence that the occurrence of infection in the catchment area can be monitored by detecting SARS-CoV-2 viruses in wastewater. Such a monitoring system could serve as a valuable decision-making aid.

The challenges for setting up a monitoring system are manifold and range from intelligent sampling and the development of robust PCR analysis to digital evaluation and dissemination of the data obtained to public decision makers. At the same time, developers, producers and service providers have the opportunity to react to this new market and adapt their products and services to the resulting requirements.


Tuesday: 9 February 2021 – held in English

14:00 European Research on Coronavirus-Wastewater-Monitoring – Epidemiology for COVID-19
Chair: Dr. Felix Kaup, Hessen Trade & Invest

Prof. Dr. Susanne Lackner & Dr. Shelesh Agrawal
Institute IWAR at Technische Universität Darmstadt

Dr. David Weissbrodt & David Calderón
Delft University of Technology

Dr. Tim Julian
Eawag - Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

 United Kingdom
Dr. Andrew Singer
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Dr. Zeynep Cetecioglu Gurol
KTH - Royal Institute of Technology

16:00 Open Q&A & Wrap-Up

16:30 END


Wednesday: 10 February 2021 – held in German

13:30 Begrüßung

13:40 Keynote: Infektionsgeschehen frühzeitig erkennen
Welches Potential liegt in Abwasseranalytik für den Umgang mit SARS-CoV-2?
Prof. Dr. Susanne Lackner, Institut IWAR der TU Darmstadt

14:00 Beprobung – Digitale Lösungen für das Kanalnetz
Modellgestützte Ermittlung von "Hot Spots" der Siedlungsentwässerung
Dr. Oliver Kraft, BGS Wasserwirtschaft GmbH, Darmstadt

Abwasser 4.0 – Von den Potenzialen eines Digitalen Zwillings für das Kanalsystem
Jan Hanken, idatase GmbH, Frankfurt am Main

14:40 Analytik – Abwasser in der PCR-Diagnostik
„Herausforderung Sensitivität“ - Nachweis von SARS-CoV-2 im Abwasser
Dr. Rolf Marell, BAG Diagnostics GmbH, Lich

Neuheiten und Entwicklungen in der qPCR Detektion und NGS Sequenzierung von SARS-CoV-2
Dr. Thea Ziegler & Nicolai Wilk, Thermo Fischer Scientific, Darmstadt

15:20 Kaffepause

15:50 Datenauswertung und -nutzung – Technologien für eine digitale Entscheidungshilfe
Real-time tracking of SARS-CoV-2 using Nextstrain
Prof. Dr. Richard Neher, Biozentrum der Universität Basel

Digitale Unterstützung zur Pandemiebewältigung mit SORMAS
Prof. Dr. Gérard Krause, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung, Braunschweig

16:30 Podiumsdiskussion: Corona-Monitoring im Abwasser – Was sind die Herausforderungen?
Prof. Dr. Susanne Lackner
Fachgebietsleiterin Abwasserwirtschaft an der TU Darmstadt

Dr. Peter Quick
Geschäftsführer der Promega GmbH und Vorstandsvorsitzender der Fachabteilung Life Science Research des VDGH e.V.

Dr. Susanne Schmid
Leiterin der Abteilung Abwasserbehandlung der Stadtentwässerung Frankfurt am Main

Prof. Dr. Richard Neher
Forschungsgruppenleiter Evolution von Viren und Bakterien am Biozentrum der Universität Basel

Moderation: Dr. Thomas Track
Leiter Wassertechnologie, DECHEMA e.V.

17:15 END


Workshop Report

Institut IWAR@TU Darmstadt

Further information, networks and projects

Wastewater project at TU Darmstadt

Since summer 2020, the project around Prof. Susanne Lackner has been funded by the Hessian Ministry of Economics and supported by Technologieland Hessen.

Wastewater SPHERE

The goals of the project are to serve as a global data center and provide databases (geospatial and tabular) for organizations and individuals testing for SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater and other waterways.

COVID-19 WBE Collobarative

The dashboard on the webpage of the COVID-19 WBE Collobarative provides an overview of global efforts for SARS-CoV-2 monitoring in wastewater.

Netherlands Corona Dashboard

The official Corona Dashboard of the Netherlands, which is freely accessible online, contains a map with information on SARS-CoV-2 in the wastewater of the different regions, updated weekly.

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