Presence of SARS-Coronavirus-2 in sewage and urban drainage in Maputo, Mozambique

  • Research & Development
  • 49.652 project budget
  • Jul 2020 - Jul 2021
  • Partners: Center of Biotechnology at Eduardo Mondlane University, RIVM
  • Donor: Stichting IHE Delft
  • Donor Programme: DGIS - UNESCO-IHE Programmatic Coorperation II
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa

This project is led by Dr. Olivia Pedro, Senior Researcher and Head of Department of Molecular Toxicology and Environment, Center of Biotechnology, Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, Mozambique. Since many SARS-CoV-2 infections are assumed to be non- or paucisymptomics, the circulation of the virus among the human population is under-detected especially in the early stages of an outbreak. In many countries SARS-CoV-2 detection is primarily linked to reported clinical COVID-19 cases, providing a belated and limited picture of the real spread of the epidemic. Moreover, this approach depends upon the availability of massive human testing, which is not the case for countries where the capacity for clinical testing is limited, like Mozambique, representing a major constrain in the control of the spread of the epidemic. The detection of the virus in sewage, even when the COVID-19 clinical prevalence is low (Medema et al., 2020; Wu et al., 2020), indicates that wastewater surveillance may provide an alternative and possibly an early tool to detect SARS-CoV2 circulation at the local or regional scale, when clinical surveillance in is hampered by logistic or economic capabilities. Moreover, an improved understanding of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 at the community level through wastewater surveillance could also serve as early warning of re-emergence of COVID-19 in cities, as reported for other viruses (Hovi et al., 2012), and can support government and health authorities to implement appropriate mitigation measures to tackle the exponential spread of COVID-19. As of 8th July 2020 Mozambique reported 1071 COVID-19 cases over 35696 tests, with 337 totally recovered and 734 still active cases; 988 out of 1071 positive cases were locally transmitted and 83 imported (http://www.misau.gov.mz/index.php/informacao-sobre-coronavirus-covid-19). Eight deaths were reported due to COVID-19 infection in the country. The province with the highest number of cases is the northern province of Cabo Delgado, with 116 cases, where an outbreak burst within a working camp of the Total Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in Afungi, affecting the employees and spreading to the surrounding communities of the Palma district. The city and province of Maputo reported 43 and 22 cases, respectively, over an estimate population of 1,124,988 (www.ine.gov.mz). Due to the increasing number of infected people by COVID-19 it is important to collect further information about the occurrence of this new virus in sewage and wastewater to monitor the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in affected communities, complementing current clinical surveillance. The objective of this study is to detect and quantify the SARS-CoV-2 in urban wastewater and open drains in the city of Maputo, Mozambique, during the COVID-19 epidemic. The specific objectives are: 1) To stablish waste water surveillance for COVID-19 2) To understand the removal efficiency in a wastewater treatment plant All Sampling points are located in the capital of Mozambique, Maputo, where the first case of COVID-19 was reported. The study will be carried out at the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) which treats effluents of 5-10% of Maputo’s population (Arsénio et al., 2018). The WWTP is not working properly but serves as small-scale irrigation source, in particular of crops that are consumed raw (e.g. lettuce), despite the effluent quality monitoring programme indicated that this practice poses a serious health risk for consumers and farmers. Selected open drains in various areas, namely Joaquim Chissano Avenue, Dona Alice Street, Acordos de Lusaka Avenue and the extension of Julius Nyerere Avenue. Two sites along Costa do Sol shoreline where wastewater is discharged in the Maputo Bay seawater will also be sampled. Samples from the WWTP and grab samples from the open air drains will be collected in duplicate and processed for viral inactivation, and standard protocols for SARS-CoV-2 detection and enumeration.

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