Data filtering methods for SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance

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Water Sci Technol. 2021 Sep;84(6):1324-1339. doi: 10.2166/wst.2021.343.


In the case of SARS-CoV-2 pandemic management, wastewater-based epidemiology aims to derive information on the infection dynamics by monitoring virus concentrations in the wastewater. However, due to the intrinsic random fluctuations of the viral signal in wastewater caused by several influencing factors that cannot be determined in detail (e.g. dilutions; number of people discharging; variations in virus excretion; water consumption per day; transport and fate processes in sewer system), the subsequent prevalence analysis may result in misleading conclusions. It is thus helpful to apply data filtering techniques to reduce the noise in the signal. In this paper we investigate 13 smoothing algorithms applied to the virus signals monitored in four wastewater treatment plants in Austria. The parameters of the algorithms have been defined by an optimization procedure aiming for performance metrics. The results are further investigated by means of a cluster analysis. While all algorithms are in principle applicable, SPLINE, Generalized Additive Model and Friedman’s Super Smoother are recognized as superior methods in this context (with the latter two having a tendency to over-smoothing). A first analysis of the resulting datasets indicates the positive effect of filtering to the correlation of the viral signal to monitored incidence values.

PMID:34559069 | DOI:10.2166/wst.2021.343