To confront the COVID-19 pandemic many countries have enforced either full or partial lockdowns to control outbreaks. These restrictions have clearly impacted people’s lifestyles and behaviours, which could translate into changes in consumption of multiple substances. It is crucial to evaluate the trend of health-related substance use during the COVID-19 period to discover the potential substance abuse.  Wastewater based epidemiology (WBE) provides a tool for assessing spatial/temporal trends in population level consumption of a wide range of licit and illicit drugs. To date, few studies have used WBE for assessing the effect on consumption of drugs and other biomarkers and to our knowledge no data has done this over the entire pandemic at a daily resolution. Fortunately, the QAEHS team, in collaboration with Melbourne Water and ALS, have been collecting and archiving daily 24-hour wastewater samples from the influent of one of Australia’s largest wastewater treatment plants (WWTP). The aims of the PhD are building on this sample collection to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic, including a series of lengthy lock downs, has affected daily mass loads of biomarkers in this catchment. The proposed research is based on the systematic analysis of high resolution sampling of wastewater samples from one big catchment in Melbourne. The initial focus is on the alcohol and illicit drug consumption and mental-health related drugs (i.e. antidepressants) could also be assessed in future work. Direct injection mode has been applied on the study of alcohol and illicit drug consumption. Selected biomarkers are expected to be determined using chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Data interpretation is processed by Excel and Graphpad software, SPSS is also applied for statistical analysis. PIA software is planned to be used for further trend analysis.

Please note this is a PhD student progress review presentation.