Developing Measurements of Health Markers in Wastewater
When someone uses the bathroom, they excrete bacteria, viruses, and chemical metabolite markers that reflect the state of their health. These markers end up in wastewater, which represents a pooled sample from everyone that contributed to it and can provide a way to monitor the health of that population using a practice called wastewater-based epidemiology. Researchers and public health officials have developed assays, or tests, to determine the quantity of a variety of health markers in wastewater, including pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and chemical metabolites. Assays can also be developed for specific hormones or metabolic indicators of a particular disease. This brief summarizes the considerations, methods, and challenges when developing tests for new public health targets in wastewater.