Early warning system in wastewater detects viruses and hotspots

In which areas do infections cluster, and where do hotspots emerge? These questions were part of everyday life during the Corona pandemic. The race to identify trends in good time was often lost, resulting in widespread travel bans and restrictions. With a system developed by IAV, viruses and other constituents can be detected in wastewater at an early stage. This makes targeted measures possible.

The system uses publicly accessible data, such as that available during the Covid 19 pandemic on the spatial distribution of infections, and evaluates it together with results from the examination of wastewater samples. An “epidemiological fingerprint” is emerging.

“On the one hand, the virus can be detected in wastewater samples even before the onset of symptoms in infected individuals, which enables early detection of COVID-19 outbreaks,” says Dr. Matthias Pätsch, responsible for Business Development Water Management at IAV. “Furthermore, if we merge data from wastewater samples with public test and infection data and evaluate them in an integrated manner, we can detect a wave of infection earlier and localize it more precisely than was previously possible. In this way, especially when using now highly developed and reliable rapid tests, we move from fingerprinting to effective early detection.”

The method, which can be used to detect not only viruses but also other substances in wastewater, was successfully tested during the Corona pandemic. It is now available to cities and municipalities to enable them to act more quickly in similar situations in the future.

Pandemic control with AI and a cloud solution

The IAV concept of the early detection system is based on two developments: First, on a smart and cloud-based IoT platform for data synthesis and analysis that has already been tested in the field; second, on an AI-based method for the intelligent positioning of devices in the sewer system that can take samples automatically.

Initiate countermeasures in real time

IAV has developed a real-time monitoring system that can be used to initiate countermeasures immediately. Using chemical fingerprints from wastewater, it can effectively detect and combat the culprits of unwanted discharges, for example industrial wastewater, chemicals or toxic substances, into the sewer system. Additionally, it can be useful in forensics.

Wastewater monitoring for municipalities and industries

IAV offers the SMOWA (Systemic Monitoring Water) system as an instrument for monitoring water systems for wastewater treatment plant and sewer network operators, cities, municipalities, industrial and commercial enterprises. However, anyone who deals with water as a product or means of production in their production process can use it.

“This would make a lot of sense, because it can be used to make the evaluation of wastewater samples an integral part of epidemic control and quality monitoring in wastewater infrastructure. Such a system provides early and local data to react quickly and better protect the population,” says Pätsch.