SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been found in the faeces of infected patients in numerous studies. Stool may remain positive for SARS-CoV-2, even when the respiratory tract becomes negative, and the interaction with the gastrointestinal tract poses a series of questions about wastewater and its treatments. This review aims to understand the viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in faeces and sewage and its fate in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The viral load in the faeces of persons testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 was estimated at between 5·103 to 107.6 copies/mL, depending on the infection course. In the sewerage, faeces undergo dilution and viral load decreases considerably in the wastewater entering a WWTP with a range from 2 copies/100 mL to 3·103 copies/mL, depending on the level of the epidemic. Monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage, although no evidence of COVID-19 transmission has been found via this route, could be advantageously exploited as an early warning of outbreaks. Preliminary studies on WBE seem promising; but high uncertainty of viral loads in wastewater and faeces remains, and further research is needed. The detection of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage, based on RNA sequences and RT-PCR, requires a shared approach on sample pre-treatment and on-site collection to ensure comparable results. The finding of viral RNA in stools does not imply that the virus is viable and infectious. Viability of CoVs such as SARS-CoV-2 decreases in wastewater - due to temperature, pH, solids, micropollutants - but high inactivation in WWTPs can be obtained only by using disinfection (free chlorine, UVC light). A reduction in the quantity of disinfectants can be obtained by implementing Membrane-Bioreactors with ultrafiltration to separate SARS-CoV-2 virions with a size of 60–140 nm. In sludge treatment, thermophilic digestion is effective, based on the general consensus that CoVs are highly sensitive to increased temperatures.
- Wastewater treatment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Engineering
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal