SARS-CoV-2 infection dynamics revealed by wastewater sequencing analysis and deconvolution


  • V.F. Schumann
  • R.R. de Castro Cuadrat
  • E. Wyler
  • R. Wurmus
  • A. Deter
  • C. Quedenau
  • J. Dohmen
  • M. Faxel
  • T. Borodina
  • A. Blume
  • J. Freimuth
  • M. Meixner
  • J.H. Grau
  • K. Liere
  • T. Hackenbeck
  • F. Zietzschmann
  • R. Gnirss
  • U. Böckelmann
  • B. Uyar
  • V. Franke
  • N. Barke
  • J. Altmüller
  • N. Rajewsky
  • M. Landthaler
  • A. Akalin


  • Science of the Total Environment


  • Sci Total Environ 853: 158931


  • The use of RNA sequencing from wastewater samples is a valuable way for estimating infection dynamics and circulating lineages of SARS-CoV-2. This approach is independent from testing individuals and can therefore become the key tool to monitor this and potentially other viruses. However, it is equally important to develop easily accessible and scalable tools which can highlight critical changes in infection rates and dynamics over time across different locations given sequencing data from wastewater. Here, we provide an analysis of lineage dynamics in Berlin and New York City using wastewater sequencing and present PiGx SARS-CoV-2, a highly reproducible computational analysis pipeline with comprehensive reports. This end-to-end pipeline includes all steps from raw data to shareable reports, additional taxonomic analysis, deconvolution and geospatial time series analyses. Using simulated datasets (in silico generated and spiked-in samples) we could demonstrate the accuracy of our pipeline calculating proportions of Variants of Concern (VOC) from environmental as well as pre-mixed samples (spiked-in). By applying our pipeline on a dataset of wastewater samples from Berlin between February 2021 and January 2022, we could reconstruct the emergence of B.1.1.7(alpha) in February/March 2021 and the replacement dynamics from B.1.617.2 (delta) to BA.1 and BA.2 (omicron) during the winter of 2021/2022. Using data from very-short-reads generated in an industrial scale setting, we could see even higher accuracy in our deconvolution. Lastly, using a targeted sequencing dataset from New York City (receptor-binding-domain (RBD) only), we could reproduce the results recovering the proportions of the so-called cryptic lineages shown in the original study. Overall our study provides an in-depth analysis reconstructing virus lineage dynamics from wastewater. While applying our tool on a wide range of different datasets (from different types of wastewater sample locations and sequenced with different methods), we show that PiGx SARS-CoV-2 can be used to identify new mutations and detect any emerging new lineages in a highly automated and scalable way. Our approach can support efforts to establish continuous monitoring and early-warning projects for detecting SARS-CoV-2 or any other pathogen.