Inferring SARS-CoV-2 RNA shedding into wastewater relative to the time of infection
Cavany S., Bivins A., Wu Z., North D., Bibby K., Perkins TA.
Abstract Since the start of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there has been interest in using wastewater monitoring as an approach for disease surveillance. A significant uncertainty that would improve the interpretation of wastewater monitoring data is the intensity and timing with which individuals shed RNA from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) into wastewater. By combining wastewater and case surveillance data sets from a university campus during a period of heightened surveillance, we inferred that individual shedding of RNA into wastewater peaks on average 6 days (50% uncertainty interval (UI): 6–7; 95% UI: 4–8) following infection, and that wastewater measurements are highly overdispersed [negative binomial dispersion parameter, k = 0.39 (95% credible interval: 0.32–0.48)]. This limits the utility of wastewater surveillance as a leading indicator of secular trends in SARS-CoV-2 transmission during an epidemic, and implies that it could be most useful as an early warning of rising transmission in areas where transmission is low or clinical testing is delayed or of limited capacity.