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Wastewater-Based Epidemiology of Enteric Viruses and Surveillance of Acute Gastrointestinal Illness Outbreaks in a Resource-Limited Region

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  • 1 Instituto de Investigaciones en Salud (INISA), Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica;
  • | 2 Laboratorio Nacional de Aguas (LNA), Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, San José, Costa Rica

ABSTRACT.

Acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) continues to be an important cause of morbidity and mortality among all ages. This study applied the principles of wastewater-based epidemiology for the preventive identification of potential outbreaks of acute viral gastroenteritis and hepatitis A by analyzing the presence of human enteric viruses in influents of small municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) handling domestic sewage, together with public health reports of acute diarrheal and hepatitis A disease in Costa Rica during 2013. Raw wastewater samples were collected during four seasonal periods with different rainfall levels. The presence of five human enteric viruses (rotavirus A, norovirus GI, norovirus GII, enterovirus, and hepatitis A virus) was studied by endpoint and real-time polymerase chain reaction in influents of five WWTPs. Cases of AGI were analyzed using historical public health reports of endemic levels and quartile ranges for each administrative and territorial area where the WWTPs are located and for its surrounding counties. A tendency for a higher rate of positive viral tests was present 1 week before an increase of AGI cases. Epidemiological weeks categorized as Outbreak (above the 75th percentile) and Success (below the 25th percentile) showed statistically significant differences in terms of positive viral test rates (Wilcoxon test, P = 0.05). Virological monitoring of wastewater in small WWTPs is an appropriate model for epidemiological surveillance of diarrheal and hepatitis A diseases in low- and middle-resource countries.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Luz Chacón, Instituto de Investigaciones en Salud (INISA), Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica. E-mail: luz.chacon@ucr.ac.cr

Authors’ addresses: Luz Chacón, Eric Morales, Liliana Reyes, and Kenia Barrantes, Universidad de Costa Rica, Instituto de Investigaciones en Salud (INISA), Montes de Oca, San Jose, Costa Rica, E-mails: luz.chacon@ucr.ac.cr, eric.morales@ucr.ac.cr, lilliana.reyes@ucr.ac.cr, and kenia.barrantes@ucr.ac.cr. Carmen Valiente, Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, Laboratorio Nacional de Aguas, San Jose, San José, Costa Rica, E-mail: civaliente@gmail.com.

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