Jianxian Sun


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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 S. 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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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 S. 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 S. 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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Monthly variations of unregulated brominated disinfection by-products in chlorinated water are correlated with total bromine
Christena Watts, Jianxian Sun, Paul D. Jones, Hui Peng, John P. Giesy
Eco-Environment & Health, Volume 1, Issue 3

Brominated disinfection by-products (Br-DBPs) can form during chlorination of drinking water in treatment plants (DWTP). Regulations exist for a small subset of Br-DBPs; However, hundreds of unregulated Br-DBPs have been detected and limited information exists on their occurrence, concentrations, and seasonal trends. Here, a data-independent precursor isolation and characteristic fragment (DIPIC-Frag) method was optimized to screen chlorinated waters for Br-DBPs. There were 553 Br-DBPs detected with m/z values ranging from 170.884 to 497.0278 and chromatographic retention times from 2.4 to 26.2 min. With MS 2 information, structures for 40 of the 54 most abundant Br-DBPs were predicted. The method was then applied to a year-long study in which raw, clear well, and finished water were analyzed monthly. The 54 most abundant unregulated Br-DBPs were subjected to trend analysis. Br-DBPs with higher oxygen-to-carbon (O/C) and bromine-to-carbon (Br/C) ratios increased as water moved from the clear well to the finished stage, which indicated the dynamic formation of Br-DBPs. Monthly trends of unregulated Br-DBPs were compared to raw water parameters such as natural organic matter, temperature, and total bromine, but no correlations were observed. It was found that total concentrations of bromine (TBr) in finished water (0.04–0.12 mg/L) were consistently and significantly greater than in raw water (0.013–0.038 mg/L, P < 0.001), suggesting the introduction of bromine during the disinfection process. Concentrations of TBr in treatment units, rather than raw water, were significantly correlated to 34 of the Br-DBPs at α = 0.05. This study provides the first evidence that monthly trends of unregulated Br-DBPs can be associated with the concentration of TBr in treated waters. - Ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry was used to identify novel brominated disinfection byproducts in a Canadian water treatment facility. - Several hundred novel brominated compounds were identified of which 54 were assigned chemical structures. - Seasonal variation in the generated DBPs were assessed over 11 months of sampling. - Increases in total bromine in drinking water was noted with progress thru the treatment process.

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Wastewater to clinical case (WC) ratio of COVID-19 identifies insufficient clinical testing, onset of new variants of concern and population immunity in urban communities
Patrick M. D’Aoust, Xin Tian, Syeda Tasneem Towhid, Amy Xiao, Élisabeth Mercier, Nada Hegazy, Jianjun Jia, Shungang Wan, Md Pervez Kabir, Wanting Fang, Meghan Fuzzen, Maria E. Hasing, Minqing Ivy Yang, Jianxian Sun, Julio Plaza‐Díaz, Zhihao Zhang, Aaron Cowan, Walaa Eid, Sean E. Stephenson, Mark R. Servos, Matthew J. Wade, Alex MacKenzie, Hui Peng, Elizabeth A. Edwards, Xiaoli Pang, Eric J. Alm, Tyson E. Graber, Robert Delatolla
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 853

Clinical testing has been the cornerstone of public health monitoring and infection control efforts in communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. With the anticipated reduction of clinical testing as the disease moves into an endemic state, SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance (WWS) will have greater value as an important diagnostic tool. An in-depth analysis and understanding of the metrics derived from WWS is required to interpret and utilize WWS-acquired data effectively (McClary-Gutierrez et al., 2021; O'Keeffe, 2021). In this study, the SARS-CoV-2 wastewater signal to clinical cases (WC) ratio was investigated across seven cities in Canada over periods ranging from 8 to 21 months. This work demonstrates that significant increases in the WC ratio occurred when clinical testing eligibility was modified to appointment-only testing, identifying a period of insufficient clinical testing (resulting in a reduction to testing access and a reduction in the number of daily tests) in these communities, despite increases in the wastewater signal. Furthermore, the WC ratio decreased significantly in 6 of the 7 studied locations, serving as a potential signal of the emergence of the Alpha variant of concern (VOC) in a relatively non-immunized community (40-60 % allelic proportion), while a more muted decrease in the WC ratio signaled the emergence of the Delta VOC in a relatively well-immunized community (40-60 % allelic proportion). Finally, a significant decrease in the WC ratio signaled the emergence of the Omicron VOC, likely because of the variant's greater effectiveness at evading immunity, leading to a significant number of new reported clinical cases, even when community immunity was high. The WC ratio, used as an additional monitoring metric, could complement clinical case counts and wastewater signals as individual metrics in its potential ability to identify important epidemiological occurrences, adding value to WWS as a diagnostic technology during the COVID-19 pandemic and likely for future pandemics.