Scotland's Covid 19 wastewater data could provide new health insights

Data from Scotland's Covid 19 wastewater programme could provide future insights into the pandemic and its long-term health effects, and help combat other viruses.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and their collaborators have published the datasets and analytical methods they used to track the levels of Covid 19 infection in Scotland by monitoring the virus levels in the sewage system.

The freely available data allow for an in-depth analysis of the rise and fall of Covid-19 in the past. This will allow scientists to examine how government and policy actions have affected infection rates in communities and improve the management of future outbreaks.

The data could also lead to new insights into the long-term impact of Covid-19 and enable health experts to detect flare-ups of the disease in areas heavily affected by the virus.

Covid-19 Wastewater Programme

The online dashboard was set up to centralise all information and results

Experts hope that the detailed methods attached to the dataset could help launch similar surveillance programmes for coronavirus or other viruses around the world.

Researchers from Edinburgh collaborated on the programme, collected and analysed the data and ensured that it was preserved, openly accessible and easily reused or reproduced in future studies.

The team created an online dashboard to centralise the information, with links to the programme's findings and to online resources where the data are published.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, levels of virus released into sewers by infected people have been used to estimate daily Covid 19 cases around the world.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Scottish Water have been monitoring the concentration of the virus in the Scottish sewage network since May 2020, collecting data at over 100 sites.

The ongoing, nationwide programme analyses virus levels using PCR testing and includes multiple analytical steps after wastewater samples are collected.

The location of sampling sites, collection and analysis data, population size in the catchment area and wastewater flow rates are also being used to estimate the prevalence of Covid-19 in the population.

This is a great example of how open datasets are important and can help accelerate new discoveries. Making sure the data is not just available but also easy to reuse, is equally or even more important.


The study, published in Scientific Data, was funded by Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The research was carried out in partnership with Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS).

Related Links

School of Biological Sciences

Journal paper: SARS-CoV-2 RNA levels in Scotland’s wastewater

COVID Wastewater Scotland- online dashboard

CREW Report- Sars-cov-2 monitoring Scottish wastewater