Comparative assessment of filtration- and precipitation-based methods for the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses from wastewater

Kata Farkas , Cameron Pellett, Natasha Alex-Sanders, Matthew T.P. Bridgman, Alexander Corbishley, Jasmine M.S. Grimsley, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Jessica L. Kevill, Igor Pântea, India S. Richardson-O’Neill, Kathryn Lambert-Slosarska, Nick Woodhall, Davey L Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been widely used to track levels of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the rapid expansion of WBE, many methods have been used and developed for virus concentration and detection in wastewater. However, very little information is available on the relative performance of these approaches. In this study, we compared the performance of five commonly used wastewater concentration methods for the detection and quantification of pathogenic viruses (SARS-CoV-2, norovirus, rotavirus, influenza and measles viruses), faecal indicator viruses (crAssphage, adenovirus, pepper mild mottle virus) and process control viruses (murine norovirus and bacteriophage Phi6) in laboratory spiking experiments. The methods evaluated included those based on either ultrafiltration (Amicon centrifugation units and Innovaprep device) or precipitation (using polyethylene glycol (PEG), beef extract-enhanced PEG and ammonium sulphate). The two best methods were further tested on 115 unspiked wastewater samples. We found that the volume and composition of the wastewater and the characteristics of the target viruses greatly affected virus recovery, regardless of the method used for concentration. All tested methods are suitable for routine virus concentration, however, the Amicon ultrafiltration method and the beef extract-enhanced PEG precipitation methods yielded the best recoveries. We recommend the use of ultrafiltration-based concentration for low sample volumes with high virus titres and ammonium levels and the use of precipitation-based concentration for rare pathogen detection in high-volume samples.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0110222
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number4
Early online date11 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • enteric viruses
  • environmental virology
  • respiratory viruses
  • public health surveillance
  • sewage concentration


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