COVID-19 in wastewater

COVID-19 in wastewater. Jefferson T, Heneghan C.

Published on June 30, 2020

Reference Cahill N, Morris D. Recreational waters – A potential transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 to humans? Science of The Total Environment. 2020;740:140122. 2020
Study type
Country Global
Setting Public
Funding Details Non reported
Transmission mode Orofecal
Exposures Recreational water

Bottom Line

Recreational water could have concentration of SARS-CoV-2 agent via faulty wastewater management

Evidence Summary

SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in faeces and wastewater in recent months. Wastewater is, therefore,  a potential dissemination route for SARS-CoV-2 to recreational waters if the waste is inadequately treated.

Currently, limited data on the presence and viability of SARS-CoV-2 in water bodies exists and the risk of infection is thought to be low Further research investigating SARSCoV-2 in recreational waters is required.

What did they do?

The study is a short review of available evidence of the orofecal transmission and its possible relation to wastewater management. Methods for identifying and evidence and assessing it are not described.

The authors review what is known of the viability of the  SARS-CoV-1 virus which has been found to survive in faecal samples for up to 17 days at 4°C, but at ~20 °C, length of survival significantly is down to 3–4days. 

In water, SARS-CoV-1 can survive for up to 14 days at 4 °C, but only 2 to 3 days at ~20 °C.

Study reliability

The review is descriptive with no methods section.

Limitations of the study.
Further confirmation of the presence and significance of COVID-19 in water is required

Clearly defined setting Demographic characteristics described Follow-up length was sufficient Transmission outcomes assessed Main biases are taken into consideration
Unclear No Unclear Yes No

What else should I consider?

This is a descriptive review and its subject content requires development and investigation especially the question of whether COVID-19 in feaces is viable.

About the authors

Carl Heneghan

Carl is Professor of EBM & Director of CEBM at the University of Oxford. He is also a GP and tweets @carlheneghan. He has an active interest in discovering the truth behind health research findings

Tom Jefferson

Tom Jefferson, epidemiologist.