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Cost of wastewater-based environmental surveillance for SARS-CoV-2: Evidence from pilot sites in Blantyre, Malawi and Kathmandu, Nepal

Ngwira, Lucky-Gift, Sharma, Bhawana, Shrestha, Kabita Bade, Dahal, Sushil, Tuladhar, Reshma, Manthalu, Gerald, Chilima, Ben, Ganizani, Allone, Rigby, Jonathan, Kanjerwa, Oscar, Barnes, Kayla, Anscombe, Catherine, Mfutso-Bengo, Joseph, Feasey, Nicholas and Mvundura, Mercy (2022) 'Cost of wastewater-based environmental surveillance for SARS-CoV-2: Evidence from pilot sites in Blantyre, Malawi and Kathmandu, Nepal'. PLOS Global Public Health, Vol 2, Issue 12, e0001377.

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Environmental surveillance of rivers and wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 detection has been explored as an innovative way to surveil the pandemic. This study estimated the economic costs of conducting wastewater-based environmental surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 to inform decision making if countries consider continuing these efforts. We estimated the cost of two SARS-CoV-2 environmental surveillance pilot studies conducted in Blantyre, Malawi, and Kathmandu, Nepal. The cost estimation accounted for the consumables, equipment, and human resource time costs used for environmental surveillance from sample selection until pathogen detection and overhead costs for the projects. Costs are reported in 2021 US$ and reported as costs per month, per sample and person per year. The estimated costs for environmental surveillance range from $6,175 to $8,272 per month (Blantyre site) and $16,756 to $30,050 (Kathmandu site). The number of samples processed per month ranged from 84 to 336 at the Blantyre site and 96 to 250 at the Kathmandu site. Consumables costs are variable costs influenced by the number of samples processed and are a large share of the monthly costs for ES (ranging from 39% to 72%). The relatively higher costs per month for the Kathmandu site were attributable to the higher allocation of dedicated human resources and equipment to environmental surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 compared to the Blantyre site where these resources were shared with other activities. The average cost per sample ranged from $25 to $74 (Blantyre) and $120 to $175 (Kathmandu). There were associated economies of scale for human resources and equipment costs with increased sample processing and sharing of resources with other activities. The cost per person in the catchment area per year ranged from $0.07 to $0.10 in Blantyre and $0.07 to $0.13 in Kathmandu. Environmental surveillance may be a low-cost early warning signal for SARS-CoV-2 that can complement other SARS-CoV2 monitoring efforts.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: WA Public Health > WA 30 Socioeconomic factors in public health (General)
WA Public Health > Water > WA 675 Water. Water supply. Sources
WC Communicable Diseases > Virus Diseases > Viral Respiratory Tract Infections. Respirovirus Infections > WC 506 COVID-19
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
SWORD Depositor: JISC Pubrouter
Depositing User: JISC Pubrouter
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2023 12:22
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2023 12:22


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