Seminar of the Department of Microbiology

Wastewater surveillance in response to COVID-19 and future threats - using non-detection to guide public health response

Dr. David A. Larsen, Professor - Syracuse University (NY, USA) - Public Health Department

25.04.2024, 11:00 - Hybrid

  • Join online
  • or in presence: Seminarraum Biologie - Foyer (Technikerstraße 25, EG)


David A. Larsen


The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted inadequate preparation for infectious disease threats, particularly around infectious disease surveillance. In the early days of the pandemic, increasing hospitalizations and deaths were the only indication available that COVID-19 was circulating in a community. There was no way to confirm the absence of COVID-19 risk from a community, and the world largely stopped moving in the attempts to reduce transmission and flatten the curve. To confirm the absence of COVID-19 risk from a community requires a comprehensive infectious disease surveillance system. Proving the absence of something is impossible, however when a surveillance system does not detect a pathogen (i.e., no cases, hospitalizations, or deaths) either there is no risk or the surveillance system missed the pathogen. We can then quantify the probability that a surveillance system missed the transmission and build confidence with sequential non-detections of a pathogen that the community is not at risk. With new advancements in wastewater surveillance, we have potentially more sensitive infectious disease surveillance systems and thus can have more confidence a community is free from risk with sequential non-detections. In this talk I will review the rise of wastewater surveillance in New York State, and examine case studies of using non-detection of COVID-19 and poliovirus in wastewater to guide public health understanding. 

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