The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to diverse approaches to track infections. The causative agent, SARS-CoV-2 is a fecally-shed RNA virus, and many groups have assayed wastewater for viral RNA fragments by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) as a proxy of COVID-19 prevalence in the community. Most groups report low levels of viral RNA that often skirt the methods theoretical limits of detection and quantitation. Here, we demonstrate the presence of SARS-CoV-2 structural proteins in wastewater using traditional immunoblotting and quantitate them from wastewater solids using an immuno-linked PCR method called Multiplex Paired-antibody Amplified Detection (MPAD). In this longitudinal study, we corrected for stochastic variability inherent to wastewater-based epidemiology using multiple fecal content protein biomarkers. These normalized SARS-CoV-2 protein data correlated well with public health metrics. Our method of assaying SARS-CoV-2 protein from wastewater represents a promising and sensitive epidemiological tool to assess prevalence of fecally-shed pathogens in the community.
Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute