Detection of COVID-19 Viral RNA in Wastewater as a Simple and Sensitive Method of Outbreak Detection in Large Populations

Life Sciences, Laboratory Technology,
  • Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Since the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States in early 2020, the incidence of infections in the population has been monitored exclusively by testing individuals for the presence of the virus itself or its antibodies. Testing individuals across the nation represents a significant cost for providing test kits and medical personnel to perform tests. Furthermore, this testing scheme relies on each individual’s compliance to be tested in case they experience disease symptoms, and the personal effort of visiting a testing site. While at-home test kits have been made available to all US citizens, it is highly likely that the majority of positive results obtained at home will remain unreported, unless symptoms become severe enough to require medical attention. In summary, this means that published incidence figures are likely underestimated, hindering the identification and early detection of local outbreaks.

During recent months, monitoring viral RNA in wastewater has been proposed as a method of detecting local outbreaks and has been implemented in several municipalities. The advantages of this testing scheme are obvious:

  • High test frequency (e.g., daily) monitoring of large populations
  • Elimination of reliance on individuals’ compliance
  • No underestimation of incidence
  • Cost reduction by establishing central testing points

The global process and laboratory automation supplier Endress+Hauser, offers instrumental solutions for the entire workflow of detecting COVID-19 RNA in wastewater. An automatic wastewater sampler from the Endress+Hauser Liquistation product line is used to collect samples in defined time intervals. Viral RNA is then extracted and enriched on a membrane filter, which can be performed on site, and the filter is submitted to a laboratory for PCR-detection.

Analytik Jena, the laboratory division of Endress+Hauser, offers equipment and reagents for the extraction and purification of viral RNA, the preparation of purified samples for PCR analysis, as well as PCR thermal cyclers for simultaneous processing and analysis of up to 384 samples. All equipment used is scalable from single-sample processing up to an ultra-high throughput of thousands of samples per day.

This complete solution offers municipalities and industrial sites a unique turnkey solution from a single vendor, covering the entire workflow from sampling to detection and evaluation, for the early detection of local viral outbreaks. Due to highly automated procedures, all laboratory techniques are simple to use and can be performed by laboratory personnel with minimal training, and a turnaround time of a few hours.

The instrumentation used is based on an open platform concept, allowing high flexibility in the choice of third-party reagent kits. This also means that the system can easily be adapted to different pathogens, e.g., Salmonella, Listeria, or the currently emerging monkeypox.

Register to learn about the detection of COVID-19 viral RNA in wastewater as a simple and sensitive method of outbreak detection in large populations.


Bretton Smith, MBS

Bretton Smith, MBS, Senior Field Applications Scientist, Analytik Jena US

Bretton Smith is a Senior Field Applications Scientist at Analytik Jena US focused on supporting the life science and clinical diagnostic markets. Prior to Analytik Jena, Bretton received his master’s degree in medical devices and diagnostics from the Keck Graduate Institute in Claremont, CA. During his career with Analytik Jena, Bretton has acquired extensive experience in molecular diagnostic workflows with many large clinical labs processing upwards of 150,000 PCR samples per day. Bretton is committed to sharing how open platform, semi-automated instruments can be used to economically scale complex molecular workflows.

Message Presenter

Who Should Attend?

The following professionals in the field of epidemiology:

  • Public Health and Safety officials
  • Water/Wastewater analysts
  • Technicians
  • Lab Managers
  • Researchers

What You Will Learn

Attendees will learn:

  • Significance of wastewater-based epidemiology
  • Wastewater analysis as a tool for early detection of outbreaks
  • How to detect and quantify pathogens in wastewater using a fast, simple and scalable workflow

Xtalks Partner

Analytik Jena

Analytik Jena is a leading provider of high-end analytical measuring technology, of instruments and products in the fields of biotechnology and molecular diagnostics, as well as of high quality liquid handling and automation technologies. Its portfolio includes traditional analytical technology, particularly to measure concentrations of elements and molecules, as well as systems for bioanalytical applications in the Life Science area spanning the highly complex analytic cycle of a sample from sample preparation to detection. Automated high-throughput screening systems for the pharmaceutical sector are also part of this segment’s extensive portfolio. Analytik Jena´s products are focused to offer customers and users a quality and the reproducibility of their laboratory results. Services, as well as device-specific consumables and disposables, such as reagents or plastic articles, complete the Group’s extensive range of products. Analytik Jena is part of the Swiss Endress+Hauser Group.


With its acquisition of Analytik Jena AG, Endress+Hauser as a leader in process measurement technology was to enter the market for lab analysis technology. In the laboratory business, we often deal with the same customers as in the process technology business.


In the future, Endress+Hauser together with Analytik Jena want to accompany them from the laboratory through to the processes – from research to product and process development right up to production and quality control.

 Market served

Analytik Jena follows its mission to achieve excellent usability for the customer in the long run. The Company is therefore strengthening its industry expertise. Not every customer is the same. The company, the industry, the range of applications with which the customer works – these are all very specific. The tasks and requirements of the customers are also individual. Analytik Jena meets the customer’s needs with its portfolio and market strategy, offering a range of products with a strong industry focus. In-depth industry knowledge is already used to shape the development of the products and technology of tomorrow.

Products, Services and Capabilities

With its core expertise in optical spectroscopy and elemental trace analysis, the Company is a leading producer of high-performance analytical instruments, and modern, innovative solutions which ensure its growth through unique technological positions. With its broad range of offerings in the Life Science area – from DNA purification through robotics, standard and real-time PCR instruments, and various detection processes to kits for molecular diagnostics in food and water analysis –, Analytik Jena addresses a rapidly growing and competitive global market that is particularly characterized by lucrative follow-up business. Automated high-throughput screening systems for the pharmaceutical sector are also part of this segment’s extensive portfolio. 

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