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Evaluating survey techniques in wastewater-based epidemiology for accurate COVID-19 incidence estimation


Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) requires high-quality survey methods to determine the incidence of infections in catchment areas. In this study, the wastewater survey methods necessary for comprehending the incidence of infection by WBE are clarified. This clarification is based on the correlation with the number of confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, considering factors such as handling non-detect data, calculation method for representative values, analytical sensitivity, analytical reproducibility, sampling frequency, and survey duration. Data collected from 15 samples per week for two and a half years using a highly accurate analysis method were regarded as gold standard data, and the correlation between severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA concentrations in wastewater and confirmed COVID-19 cases was analyzed by Monte Carlo simulation under the hypothetical situation where the quality of the wastewater survey method was reduced. Regarding data handling, it was appropriate to replace non-detect data with estimates based on distribution, and to use geometric means to calculate representative values. For the analysis of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in samples, using a highly sensitive and reproducible method (non-detect rates of