How wastewater monitoring can boost preparedness for new health threats

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Objective: to explore wastewater analysis as a methodology contributing to EU preparedness and response

Background: COVID-19 has raised the attention of Europe, and globally, on the importance of readiness towards potential emergencies. Improved and innovative monitoring methodologies are at the core of the research-based actions taken to respond to potential threats.

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), also known as wastewater monitoring or wastewater surveillance, only began to gain traction as an epidemiological tool in the early 21st century with a diverse array of applications but remained known to only a relatively small group of specialists. However, in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic catapulted WBE into mainstream attention and showed what a powerful public health tool it could be.

It is more than a decade that the EMCDDA is exploring the analysis of municipal wastewater for drugs and their metabolic products to estimate community consumption. Recent investigations have shown the potential of WBE for drugs signal alert, such as the identification of NPS and increased consumption of crack in some EU cities.

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