Home > ColoSSoS - Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 Project

ColoSSoS - Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 Project

Project Number # 2060

Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 Project

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Background and Relevance 

WaterRA is leading an innovative, and collaborative Australia-wide investigation that aims to integrate reliable results of sewage testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus with health data for COVID-19 on a national basis.

WaterRA has long been at the forefront of research supporting Public Health and Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (WBE), used to help inform broader infectious disease surveillance and mitigation efforts, such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. More recently, global projects have been developed to explore using sewage for continuous monitoring of chemicals and pathogens of emerging concern, drugs, and anti-microbial resistance (AMR).

                                                                                                                                                                 Click this image to access our Health Stream Publications
This year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WaterRA launched the ColoSSoS project, utilising WBE surveillance to track and monitor the presence and persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage networks. Developed and implemented within four weeks of COVID-19 being classed as a global pandemic by The World Health Organisation (WHO), ColoSSoS represents an effort of over 50 organisations across water utilities, health departments, research laboratories, universities, private consultancies and global partners, all brought together by WaterRA.
The impact of ColoSSoS has been immediate and is testament to the 'better-together' approach and unique position in the water sector that WaterRA holds as a hub where industry needs are met by research 'know-how'.
Click this image to access our Publication "SARS-CoV-2 known and unknowns,
implications for the water sector and wastewater-based epidemiology to support national responses worldwide"


The ColoSSoS Project – Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-COV-2 — will track and monitor the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19 and its persistence in the Australian sewerage network, thus providing information on where it is present in the population. 

Sewage monitoring has been successfully used for some years to monitor pathogen presence, persistence and occurrence patterns across Australia and internationally. Similar studies of chemical substance have also been undertaken. The information on pathogens is used to inform the assessment of risks from exposure to sewage by sewer workers and plumbers, to inform treatment requirements for sewage to be recycled and to assess public health risks from discharges to the environments. In addition, the information it used to assist tracking of disease patterns in the community, to help follow epidemic patterns and identify regional hotspots.

The evidence is particularly useful in that the testing is non-invasive and doesn’t require patient sampling and it is able to be carried out systematically in a statistically sound manner over time. However, to date, the analyses have been undertaken with established enteric viruses, and not the COVID-19 virus. 

ColoSSoS Project Phases

             Phase 1 | Inititation                 Phase 2 | Method Development              Phase 3 | Investigation into                    Phase 4 | Continuous improvement

                                                                                                                                       possibility of routine surveillance              Early warning potential, ongoing R&D 


ColoSSoS Project Aims

  • Generate information on community-wide prevalence of COVID-19 using sewage testing surveillance will provide a valuable tool that can be integrated with health data (testing of individuals and hospital cases) to assist governments to determine the incidence of disease and the impact of changes to physical distancing and a range of other restrictions.
  • Support metropolitan, rural and remote communities, as well as disadvantaged and at-risk communities where health infrastructure is limited by assisting governments to best target their response efforts and investment.
  • Investigate the potential for a routine approach to sewage surveillance for pathogens will be developed which can provide an early-warning system enabling governments to implement response actions more quickly and efficiently.
  • If desired, the protocols and know-how generated by ColoSSoS can be used by the Australian government to support neighbouring developing countries in their response to COVID-19.
  • Continued research and development

 Water Research Australia talks LIVE on ABC News about ColoSSoS and Sewage surveillance 

 FAQs and Fact Sheet on Sewage Surveillance has been developed