Chand Mangat


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An improved method for determining frequency of multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater using qPCR assays
Meghan Fuzzen, Nathanael B.J. Harper, Hadi A. Dhiyebi, Nivetha Srikanthan, Samina Hayat, Leslie M. Bragg, Shelley Peterson, Ivy Yang, Jianxian Sun, Elizabeth Edwards, John P. Giesy, Chand Mangat, Tyson E. Graber, Robert Delatolla, Mark R. Servos
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 881

Wastewater-based surveillance has become an effective tool around the globe for indirect monitoring of COVID-19 in communities. Variants of Concern (VOCs) have been detected in wastewater by use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or whole genome sequencing (WGS). Rapid, reliable RT-PCR assays continue to be needed to determine the relative frequencies of VOCs and sub-lineages in wastewater-based surveillance programs. The presence of multiple mutations in a single region of the N-gene allowed for the design of a single amplicon, multiple probe assay, that can distinguish among several VOCs in wastewater RNA extracts. This approach which multiplexes probes designed to target mutations associated with specific VOC's along with an intra-amplicon universal probe (non-mutated region) was validated in singleplex and multiplex. The prevalence of each mutation (i.e. VOC) is estimated by comparing the abundance of the targeted mutation with a non-mutated and highly conserved region within the same amplicon. This is advantageous for the accurate and rapid estimation of variant frequencies in wastewater. The N200 assay was applied to monitor frequencies of VOCs in wastewater extracts from several communities in Ontario, Canada in near real time from November 28, 2021 to January 4, 2022. This includes the period of the rapid replacement of the Delta variant with the introduction of the Omicron variant in these Ontario communities in early December 2021. The frequency estimates using this assay were highly reflective of clinical WGS estimates for the same communities. This style of qPCR assay, which simultaneously measures signal from a non-mutated comparator probe and multiple mutation-specific probes contained within a single qPCR amplicon, can be applied to future assay development for rapid and accurate estimations of variant frequencies.

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Realizing the value in “non-standard” parts of the qPCR standard curve by integrating fundamentals of quantitative microbiology
Philip J. Schmidt, Nicole Acosta, Alex H. S. Chik, Patrick M. D’Aoust, Robert Delatolla, Hadi A. Dhiyebi, Melissa B. Glier, Casey R. J. Hubert, Jennifer Kopetzky, Chand Mangat, Xiaoli Pang, Shelley Peterson, Natalie Prystajecky, Yuanyuan Qiu, Mark R. Servos, Monica B. Emelko
Frontiers in Microbiology, Volume 14

The real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), commonly known as quantitative PCR (qPCR), is increasingly common in environmental microbiology applications. During the COVID-19 pandemic, qPCR combined with reverse transcription (RT-qPCR) has been used to detect and quantify SARS-CoV-2 in clinical diagnoses and wastewater monitoring of local trends. Estimation of concentrations using qPCR often features a log-linear standard curve model calibrating quantification cycle (Cq) values obtained from underlying fluorescence measurements to standard concentrations. This process works well at high concentrations within a linear dynamic range but has diminishing reliability at low concentrations because it cannot explain "non-standard" data such as Cq values reflecting increasing variability at low concentrations or non-detects that do not yield Cq values at all. Here, fundamental probabilistic modeling concepts from classical quantitative microbiology were integrated into standard curve modeling approaches by reflecting well-understood mechanisms for random error in microbial data. This work showed that data diverging from the log-linear regression model at low concentrations as well as non-detects can be seamlessly integrated into enhanced standard curve analysis. The newly developed model provides improved representation of standard curve data at low concentrations while converging asymptotically upon conventional log-linear regression at high concentrations and adding no fitting parameters. Such modeling facilitates exploration of the effects of various random error mechanisms in experiments generating standard curve data, enables quantification of uncertainty in standard curve parameters, and is an important step toward quantifying uncertainty in qPCR-based concentration estimates. Improving understanding of the random error in qPCR data and standard curve modeling is especially important when low concentrations are of particular interest and inappropriate analysis can unduly affect interpretation, conclusions regarding lab performance, reported concentration estimates, and associated decision-making.


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Community Surveillance of Omicron in Ontario: Wastewater-based Epidemiology Comes of Age.
Authors presented in alphabetical order:, Jos Arts, R. Stephen Brown, David Bulir, Trevor C. Charles, Christopher T. DeGroot, Robert Delatolla, Jean‐Paul Desaulniers, Elizabeth A. Edwards, Meghan Fuzzen, Kimberley Gilbride, Jodi Gilchrist, Lawrence Goodridge, Tyson E. Graber, Marc Habash, Peter Jüni, Andrea E. Kirkwood, James Knockleby, Christopher J. Kyle, Chrystal Landgraff, Chand Mangat, Douglas Manuel, R. Michael L. McKay, Edgard M. Mejia, Aleksandra Mloszewska, Banu Örmeci, Claire J. Oswald, Sarah Jane Payne, Hui Peng, Shelley Peterson, Art F. Y. Poon, Mark R. Servos, Denina Simmons, Jianxian Sun, Minqing Ivy Yang, Gustavo Ybazeta

Abstract Wastewater-based surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 RNA has been implemented at building, neighbourhood, and city levels throughout the world. Implementation strategies and analysis methods differ, but they all aim to provide rapid and reliable information about community COVID-19 health states. A viable and sustainable SARS-CoV-2 surveillance network must not only provide reliable and timely information about COVID-19 trends, but also provide for scalability as well as accurate detection of known or unknown emerging variants. Emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern Omicron in late Fall 2021 presented an excellent opportunity to benchmark individual and aggregated data outputs of the Ontario Wastewater Surveillance Initiative in Canada; this public health-integrated surveillance network monitors wastewaters from over 10 million people across major population centres of the province. We demonstrate that this coordinated approach provides excellent situational awareness, comparing favourably with traditional clinical surveillance measures. Thus, aggregated datasets compiled from multiple wastewater-based surveillance nodes can provide sufficient sensitivity (i.e., early indication of increasing and decreasing incidence of SARS-CoV-2) and specificity (i.e., allele frequency estimation of emerging variants) with which to make informed public health decisions at regional- and state-levels.

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Multiplex RT-qPCR assay (N200) to detect and estimate prevalence of multiple SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern in wastewater
Meghan Fuzzen, Nathanael B.J. Harper, Hadi A. Dhiyebi, Nivetha Srikanthan, Samina Hayat, Shelley Peterson, Ivy Yang, Jianxian Sun, Elizabeth A. Edwards, John P. Giesy, Chand Mangat, Tyson E. Graber, Robert Delatolla, Mark R. Servos

Abstract Wastewater-based surveillance (WBS) has become an effective tool around the globe for indirect monitoring of COVID-19 in communities. Quantities of viral fragments of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater are related to numbers of clinical cases of COVID-19 reported within the corresponding sewershed. Variants of Concern (VOCs) have been detected in wastewater by use of reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) or sequencing. A multiplex RT-qPCR assay to detect and estimate the prevalence of multiple VOCs, including Omicron/Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, in wastewater RNA extracts was developed and validated. The probe-based multiplex assay, named “N200” focuses on amino acids 199-202, a region of the N gene that contains several mutations that are associated with variants of SARS- CoV-2 within a single amplicon. Each of the probes in the N200 assay are specific to the targeted mutations and worked equally well in single- and multi-plex modes. To estimate prevalence of each VOC, the abundance of the targeted mutation was compared with a non- mutated region within the same amplified region. The N200 assay was applied to monitor frequencies of VOCs in wastewater extracts from six sewersheds in Ontario, Canada collected between December 1, 2021, and January 4, 2022. Using the N200 assay, the replacement of the Delta variant along with the introduction and rapid dominance of the Omicron variant were monitored in near real-time, as they occurred nearly simultaneously at all six locations. The N200 assay is robust and efficient for wastewater surveillance can be adopted into VOC monitoring programs or replace more laborious assays currently being used to monitor SARS- CoV-2 and its VOCs.

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RNA in Municipal Wastewater Reveals Magnitudes of COVID-19 Outbreaks across Four Waves Driven by SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern
Yuwei Xie, Jonathan K. Challis, Femi F. Oloye, Mohsen Asadi, Jenna Cantin, Markus Brinkmann, Kerry N. McPhedran, Natacha S. Hogan, Mike Sadowski, Paul D. Jones, Chrystal Landgraff, Chand Mangat, Mark R. Servos, John P. Giesy
ACS ES&T Water, Volume 2, Issue 11

There are no standardized protocols for quantifying severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in wastewater to date, especially for population normalization. Here, a pipeline was developed, applied, and assessed to quantify SARS-CoV-2 and key variants of concern (VOCs) RNA in wastewater at Saskatoon, Canada. Normalization approaches using recovery ratio and extraction efficiency, wastewater parameters, or population indicators were assessed by comparing to daily numbers of new cases. Viral load was positively correlated with daily new cases reported in the sewershed. Wastewater surveillance (WS) had a lead time of approximately 7 days, which indicated surges in the number of new cases. WS revealed the variant α and δ driving the third and fourth wave, respectively. The adjustment with the recovery ratio and extraction efficiency improved the correlation between viral load and daily new cases. Normalization of viral concentration to concentrations of the artificial sweetener acesulfame K improved the trend of viral load during the Christmas and New Year holidays when populations were dynamic and variable. Acesulfame K performed better than pepper mild mottle virus, creatinine, and ammonia for population normalization. Hence, quality controls to characterize recovery ratios and extraction efficiencies and population normalization with acesulfame are promising for precise WS programs supporting decision-making in public health.

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Rapid transition between SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern Delta and Omicron detected by monitoring municipal wastewater from three Canadian cities
Femi F. Oloye, Yuwei Xie, Mohsen Asadi, Jenna Cantin, Jonathan K. Challis, Markus Brinkmann, Kerry N. McPhedran, Kevin Kristian, Mark P. Keller, Mike Sadowski, Paul D. Jones, Chrystal Landgraff, Chand Mangat, Meghan Fuzzen, Mark R. Servos, John P. Giesy
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 841

Monitoring the communal incidence of COVID-19 is important for both government and residents of an area to make informed decisions. However, continuous reliance on one means of monitoring might not be accurate because of biases introduced by government policies or behaviours of residents. Wastewater surveillance was employed to monitor concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in raw influent wastewater from wastewater treatment plants serving three Canadian Prairie cities with different population sizes. Data obtained from wastewater are not directly influenced by government regulations or behaviours of individuals. The means of three weekly samples collected using 24 h composite auto-samplers were determined. Viral loads were determined by RT-qPCR, and whole-genome sequencing was used to charaterize variants of concern (VOC). The dominant VOCs in the three cities were the same but with different proportions of sub-lineages. Sub-lineages of Delta were AY.12, AY.25, AY.27 and AY.93 in 2021, while the major sub-lineage of Omicron was BA.1 in January 2022, and BA.2 subsequently became a trace-level sub-variant then the predominant VOC. When each VOC was first detected varied among cities; However, Saskatoon, with the largest population, was always the first to present new VOCs. Viral loads varied among cities, but there was no direct correlation with population size, possibly because of differences in flow regimes. Population is one of the factors that affects trends in onset and development of local outbreaks during the pandemic. This might be due to demography or the fact that larger populations had greater potential for inter- and intra-country migration. Hence, wastewater surveillance data from larger cities can typically be used to indicate what to expect in smaller communities.


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Comparison of approaches to quantify SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater using RT-qPCR: Results and implications from a collaborative inter-laboratory study in Canada
Alex H. S. Chik, Melissa B. Glier, Mark R. Servos, Chand Mangat, Xiaoli Pang, Yuanyuan Qiu, Patrick M. D’Aoust, Jean-Baptiste Burnet, Robert Delatolla, Sarah Dorner, Qiudi Geng, John P. Giesy, R. Michael L. McKay, Michael R. Mulvey, Natalie Prystajecky, Nivetha Srikanthan, Yuwei Xie, Bernadette Conant, Steve E. Hrudey
Journal of Environmental Sciences, Volume 107

Detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater is a promising tool for informing public health decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, approaches for its analysis by use of reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) are still far from standardized globally. To characterize inter- and intra-laboratory variability among results when using various methods deployed across Canada, aliquots from a real wastewater sample were spiked with surrogates of SARS-CoV-2 (gamma-radiation inactivated SARS-CoV-2 and human coronavirus strain 229E [HCoV-229E]) at low and high levels then provided "blind" to eight laboratories. Concentration estimates reported by individual laboratories were consistently within a 1.0-log10 range for aliquots of the same spiked condition. All laboratories distinguished between low- and high-spikes for both surrogates. As expected, greater variability was observed in the results amongst laboratories than within individual laboratories, but SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentration estimates for each spiked condition remained mostly within 1.0-log10 ranges. The no-spike wastewater aliquots provided yielded non-detects or trace levels (<20 gene copies/mL) of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Detections appear linked to methods that included or focused on the solids fraction of the wastewater matrix and might represent in-situ SARS-CoV-2 to the wastewater sample. HCoV-229E RNA was not detected in the no-spike aliquots. Overall, all methods yielded comparable results at the conditions tested. Partitioning behavior of SARS-CoV-2 and spiked surrogates in wastewater should be considered to evaluate method effectiveness. A consistent method and laboratory to explore wastewater SARS-CoV-2 temporal trends for a given system, with appropriate quality control protocols and documented in adequate detail should succeed.