Detecting SARS-CoV-2 in BC’s Wastewater

Time frame: 2020-2022

Not long after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Dr Natalie Prystajecky and Dr Melissa Glier, who had already been studying viruses in wastewater since 2018, were able to quickly leverage an existing collaboration, methods, and equipment for testing enteric viruses in wastewater to be able to test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Recently adopting an alternative sampling method that allows to test wastewater from an entire community, their team is also working on a method to test wastewater as it exits a building, thus providing key information on how COVID-19 is being spread throughout and among BC communities.

Funding for their work allowed Drs Prystajecky and Glier’s team to optimize their methods and test for SARS-CoV-2 in five wastewater treatment plants in Metro Vancouver, covering nearly 50% of BC’s population, along two regional health authorities. Weekly reports are shared with medical health officers and epidemiologists within regional health authorities, BC Centre for Disease Control staff, and Metro Vancouver.

Their collaborations have extended to the development of a three-day rapid sequencing method to effectively track COVID-19 variants of concern within a region, and key findings from their studies have been published in the Journal of Environmental Sciences and the American Society for Microbiology, with more to come. With the Omicron variant, wastewater testing has become a critical and necessary component of SARS-CoV-2 monitoring and surveillance.

Rapid SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Research Initiative in BC

Time frame: 2021-2022

In a new and unique partnership with Genome BC and Michael Smith Health Research BC (formerly the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research), we funded nine new rapid-response vaccine research projects addressing COVID-19 vaccine research priorities and knowledge gaps. This funding program was developed and implemented in real-time, enabling us to get funding to critical research projects rapidly in order to have high-impact on vaccination roll-out for BC. Collective funding of around $1.3M is allowing for vaccine research that ultimately focuses on public health response and ensuring access to, and confidence in, vaccination programs for everyone in BC.

More specifically, the projects funded address areas such as:

  • vaccine breakthrough infections;
  • vaccine effectiveness in the context of Variants of Concern and in immune response;
  • viral transmission;
  • equitable distribution;
  • vaccine acceptance and attitudes towards vaccines; and
  • vaccine literacy and hesitancy among people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who are incarcerated, people who work in long-term care homes and a variety of multicultural communities in the Lower Mainland.

For a summary of the projects, go here.

We’ll continue to share outcomes of this research as these projects progress. You can stay connected on project updates by visiting this page and subscribing to our newsletter.

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