Veolia and partners build up early warning system for identifying COVID-19 variants in wastewater

The Vigie Covid-19 solution now can track signs of the Omicron variant in wastewater, acting as an early warning system of monitoring the pandemic’s progression.

Veolia, the IPMC, start-up IAGE and the Bataillon des Marins Pompiers de Marseille (BMPM), continue their collaboration to optimise Vigie Covid-19, their solution to detect and quantify the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater in record time. Launched in September 2020, this method has already made it possible to detect and quantify the Alpha, Beta and Gamma varients, then the Delta variant this summer, and now the Omicron variant.

Used experimentally as a complement to existing clinical data, the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater has the potential to become a new indicator to help manage the pandemic. In France, the National Reference Laboratory appointed by the Ministries for Health and the Ecological Transition, has therefore recently launched a process to harmonise and consolidate such monitoring methods.

The Vigie Covid-19 solution is the most operational in Europe for quantifying SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater to date, Veolia claimed. With the PCR screening techniques, the solution allows to identify the presence of known mutations originating from existing variants and evaluate their concentration. Then, the sequencing methods identify the mutations, as well as the variant’s proportions.

The campaign on the Omicron variant detection, carried out by Veolia and its partners in December on a dozen municipal and industrial sites across Europe, made it possible to continue reinforcing the Vigie Covid-19 solution with several significant advances to be noted:

  • Only two weeks are needed to launch a monitoring campaign for a new variant;
  • PCR screening of a sample now requires only a few hours to one day;
  • Sequencing a sample takes less than a day without prior tuning;
  • The results can be used as soon as the new variant arises in a region.

Philippe Sébérac, technological and scientific expertise director for Veolia, commented: “With the success of our third campaign that demonstrates the effectiveness of Vigie Covid-19, we are now ready, in agreement with our partners, to make it available to a greater number of stakeholders. A large-scale roll-out would make it possible, by tightening up the territorial network, to cross-reference these data with those of local health authorities. Our method can thus constitute an excellent complement to clinical trials in the fight against the spread of the pandemic, by providing readable information and dynamics consistent with the incidence rates reported by health authorities in Europe.”