Realistic Assessment of Biomarker Transformation in the Wastewater System

ARC Discovery Project

Wastewater-based epidemiology is an internationally recognised cost-effective tool to monitor population exposure to chemicals and infectious diseases, including COVID-19. However, in-sewer degradation of critical biomarkers can limit their wastewater-based epidemiology suitability. This project aims to systematically evaluate the stability of a new suite of potential biomarkers and conduct the first Australia-wide assessment on the impact of biomarker stability on wastewater-based epidemiology estimates using wastewater samples from approximately 65% of the Australian population. The project expects to generate knowledge to expand the application of wastewater-based epidemiology to reliably quantify exposure and status of well-being, even in remote areas.

Research Outputs

Li, J., Ahmed, W., Metcalfe, S., Smith, W.J., Choi, P.M., Jackson, G., Cen, X., Zheng, M., Simpson, S.L., Thomas, K.V. and Mueller, J.F., 2023. Impact of sewer biofilms on fate of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and wastewater surveillance. Nature Water1(3), pp.272-280.

Gao, J., O'Brien, J.W., Li, J., Choi, P., Li, Y. and Thai, P.K., 2023. Assessment of in-sample and in-sewer stability of biomarkers in wastewater-based epidemiology: an important step. Wastewater-Based Epidemiology for the Assessment of Human Exposure to Environmental Pollutants, pp.83-122.

Li, J., Choi, P.M., Gao, J., Ren, J., O'Brien, J.W., Thomas, K.V., Mueller, J.F., Thai, P.K., Jiang, G., 2024. In-sewer stability of 31 human health biomarkers and suitability for wastewater-based epidemiology. Water Research 249, 120978.

Zhao, Z., Zheng, Q., Tscharke, B.J., Ahmed, F., O'Brien, J.W., Gao, J., Covaci, A., and Thai, P.K.  2024.  Refining the correction factor for a better monitoring of antidepressant use by wastewater-based epidemiology: A case study of amitriptyline. Science of The Total Environment, 172057.

Project members

Zeyang Zhao

PhD Candidate

A/Prof Phong Thai

Co-Theme Leader, Environmental Health Risk Assessment

Dr Jake O’Brien

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Qiuda Zheng

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Jianan Ren

PhD Candidate