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Long term detection and quantification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater in Bahrain

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journal contribution
posted on 22.11.2022, 14:14 authored by J Herrera-Uribe, P Naylor, Ebrahim RajabEbrahim Rajab, B Mathews, Gulnur Coskuner, Majeed S Jassim, Manaf AlQahtaniManaf AlQahtani, NJ Stevenson

Wastewater-based epidemiology is a corroborated environmental surveillance tool in the global fight against SARS-CoV-2. The analysis of wastewater for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA may assist policymakers to survey a specific infectious community. Herein, we report on a long-term quantification study in Bahrain to investigate the incidence of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ∼260,000 population of Muharraq Island in Bahrain is served by a discrete sewerage catchment, and all wastewater flows to a single large Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) with a capacity of 100,000 m3/day. The catchment is predominately domestic, but also serves several hospitals and Bahrain's international airport. Flow-weighted 24-h composite wastewater samples for the period February 2020 to October 2021 were analyzed for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 N1, N2 and E genes. A Spearman rank correlation demonstrated a moderate correlation between the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 N1, N2 and E genes in the wastewater samples and the number of COVID-19 cases reported on the same day of the sampling.

SARS-CoV-2 viral genes were detected in wastewater samples shortly after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported by the health authorities in Bahrain by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). The viral genes were detected in 55 of 65 samples (84.62%) during the whole study period and the concentration range was found to be between 0 and 11,508 RNA copies/mL across the viral genes tested (in average N1: 518.4, N2: 366.8 and E: 649.3 copies/mL). Furthermore, wastewater samples from two COVID-19-dedicated quarantine facilities were analysed and detected higher SARS-CoV-2 gene concentrations (range 27-19,105 copies/mL; in average N1: 5044, N2: 4833 and E: 8663 copies/mL). Our results highlight the potential use of RT-qPCR for SARS-CoV-2 detection and quantification in wastewater and present the moderate correlation between concentration of SARS-CoV-2 genes with reported COVID-19 cases for a specified population. Indeed, this study identifies this technique as a mechanism for long term monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 infection levels and hence provides public health and policymakers with a useful environmental surveillance tool during and after the current pandemic.


Muharraq Wastewater Services Co.

Science Foundation Ireland, grant numbers SFI 20/SPP/3685 and SFI 19/FFP/6483.



The original article is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/

Published Citation

Herrera-Uribe J. et al. Long term detection and quantification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater in Bahrain. Journal of Hazardous Materials Advances. 2022;7:100082.

Publication Date

10 May 2022


  • RCSI Bahrain




  • Published Version (Version of Record)