R. Michael L. McKay


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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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Metagenomics of Wastewater Influent from Wastewater Treatment Facilities across Ontario in the Era of Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern
Opeyemi U. Lawal, Linkang Zhang, Valeria R. Parreira, R. Stephen Brown, Charles Chettleburgh, Nora Dannah, Robert Delatolla, Kimberly Gilbride, Tyson E. Graber, Golam Islam, James Knockleby, Siying Ma, Hanlan McDougall, R. Michael L. McKay, Aleksandra Mloszewska, Claire J. Oswald, Mark R. Servos, Megan Swinwood-Sky, Gustavo Ybazeta, Marc Habash, Lawrence Goodridge
Microbiology Resource Announcements, Volume 11, Issue 7

We report metagenomic sequencing analyses of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA in composite wastewater influent from 10 regions in Ontario, Canada, during the transition between Delta and Omicron variants of concern. The Delta and Omicron BA.1/BA.1.1 and BA.2-defining mutations occurring in various frequencies were reported in the consensus and subconsensus sequences of the composite samples.


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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.