Metrolab Blog

SARS COV-2 analysis in wastewater , Interview with the developers from IDEXX

SARS CoV-2 analysis in Wastewater samples is a crucial step for giving the complete picture about pandemic status for each region. Wastewater epidemiology is now under many authorities hands for getting the information regarding the SARS CoV-2 pandemic .

IDEXX is a leader in Water Microbiology testing solutions and they provided

a Validated kit for SARS CoV-2 in wastewater samples for Extraction & Quantification steps . They have introduced both kits after 7 months since pandemic starting and they validated as well, giving a professional perspective to their kit and helping the Regulated Laboratories across the World.

We were honoured to have one of the Senior Technical Managers from IDEXX, Dr Brett Brewin, to discuss about IDEXX’s solution for SARS CoV-2 in Wastewater samples and the future of this .


Hello Brett thank you for your e-presense, could you please tell us in a few words regarding your job description, position, and the duties?

I am the technical manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa for IDEXX Water. I have supported several customers in Europe in their implementations of wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, and have performed testing and validation in our ISO 17025 laboratory in Newmarket in the UK.

IDEXX successfully introduced to the market, one of the first Validated kits for detecting and quantifying the SARS CoV-2 in Wastewater samples. What was the main strategy behind that and what challenges you should overcome at that time since you provided this kit only 4 months after pandemic was starting?

We work closely with several regulatory agencies around the world and meet with them regularly. We had such a meeting early in the pandemic, and they indicated that they were evaluating wastewater surveillance as an important source of public health information. After that meeting our R&D team began validating a product in wastewater samples from several different wastewater treatment facilities. This product is a real testament to our R&D team- they were able to validate a product with real world samples in a very diligent way, while at the same time moving quickly. We launched in July of 2020 and the kit has been providing value to labs and communities ever since.

You are one of the firsts to validated the SARS CoV-2 kit for WWTP samples, what is the added value of this validation for the end user?

Any time the results of a test are used as an input to public health decisions, validation is critical to ensure the quality of data. This doesn’t change in a pandemic, though there is an added layer of urgency. Validation is also critically important in a complex matrix like wastewater that varies greatly from site to site. It’s important to examine validation data to be confident that a given test will work in your laboratory, and we of course also recommend an internal verification process. Using a test without validation data introduces the possibility that public health decisions will be made on faulty data, and that’s simply unacceptable to us. As a colleague often says, “in god we trust- all others bring data.”

You are providing a kit in Globally basis; how do you handle all these different WWTP matrix samples in terms of SARS CoV-2 extraction and quantitation?

Our R&D Team validated our reagents on as geographically diverse wastewater samples as possible, ensuring that we covered as many different types of wastewater as possible. For example, we validated on samples from a range of communities having differing population sizes, climates, and levels of industrial waste. We’ve also added additional controls to our kit over time- these controls provide a wealth of information that allow users to be very confident in their results. Lastly, test has remained flexible- while we have an end-to-end process that is well-validated, laboratories may want to use different concentration or extraction processes depending on their needs, and our test has been shown to provide high quality data in those situations, as well.

SARS CoV-2 appears to have a lot of mutations (e.g Delta, Omicron), is it something that you are taking care in your kit design during that time for WWTP samples?

Yes. Our R&D team periodically conducts sequence analysis to identify and evaluate mutations that may impact detection. Our analysis and testing has demonstrated that both the N1 and N2 regions used in our test are detected reliably in both the Delta and Omicron variants. Additionally, because our test targets both N1 and N2, it is extremely unlikely that mutations would simultaneously affect detection of both targets, and our test is expected to detect other variants that may arise in the future.

We are tempted to ask; do you plan or design something new for this kind of application?

We recently released additional controls for detecting SARS-CoV-2 that are recommended by both the US CDC and the EU Commission. Looking forward, we work closely with our customers to understand what updates or new products could improve speed, ease-of-use, or sensitivity. As an organization we are also committed to improving public health, and are interested in discussing any new applications for wastewater surveillance.

What is the future on that application (SARS CoV-2 in WWTP) according to your perspective?

Our perspective is that wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 will provide valuable public health information for the foreseeable future. We all certainly hope that we won’t have to use wastewater data to predict future waves of COVID, but the Omicron wave showed us what a critical tool this really is. Moving beyond SARS-CoV-2, this pandemic has demonstrated the value of wastewater surveillance in general, and we believe it can be applied to other targets, such as antimicrobial resistance targets, or to other pathogens.