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sector_ico_Health_trans Human Health

Surveillance Alert for Fast Epidemiology Genomics and Unified Agile Response to Disease (SAFEGUARD) Against Respiratory Viruses Using Wastewater Surveillance

  • Project Leaders:
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $6086973
  • Program/Competition: Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP)
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome Canada
  • Fiscal Year: 2023
  • Status: Active

The current public health approach to monitoring pathogen infections in the population is through testing of all symptomatic individuals. This approach is expensive to implement on a large scale, subject to biases and limited to specific populations. Therefore, public health organizations are in need of a more reliable, cost-effective and unbiased approach to guide decision-making regarding pathogen surveillance.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater surveillance (WWS) was used by public health organizations as an early warning system to predict outbreaks, detect the emergence of variants of concern and discover novel variants. WWS can be conducted for a fraction of the cost of clinical surveillance and can improve surveillance data and public health responsiveness in underserved communities. In addition, WWS has the capability to be applied to a broad range of pathogens such as the Monkeypox virus, poliovirus and antimicrobial resistance.

Currently, there are many WWS programs across Canada, but most of them are limited to SARS-CoV-2 surveillance. The project team, consisting of members from the University of British Columbia, BC Centre for Diseases Control, BC Ministry of Health and the National Microbiology Laboratory, will deploy a robust and comprehensive genomic based WWS program for a broad suite of respiratory pathogens that are of interest to public health practitioners. These genomic data will also be integrated with epidemiological data and used for statistical modelling to assist in public health decision making. The BC WWS program will guide national policies and strategic plans for the development of a pan-Canadian Wastewater Network.