Ad-hoc guidance: Wastewater sampling of aircrafts for SARS-CoV-2 surveillance
“The European Union (EU) Health Security Committee (HSC) and Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) recommended that wastewater from aircraft coming from countries other than the European Union or European Economic Area, along with wastewater from those airports, be monitored for SARS-CoV-2. The testing provides additional information, complementary to clinical testing, to help improve knowledge of the epidemiological situation, and inform the priority of practical measures, such as hygiene practices and face covering use (masking).
Sampling and testing strategies and methods have been proven in multiple studies in the EU and elsewhere which proves that the approach is methodologically reliable. However, there is no precedent for widespread, operational testing of aircraft or airports beyond relatively small studies of up to several hundred aircraft. Therefore, moving to collect and test many thousands of samples over a much larger geographical area and more prolonged period of time requires strong coordination and collaboration among airports, airlines, airport waste servicing organisations, wastewater utility companies, technology companies, and laboratories.
At the time of writing there is no standard operating procedure or method that has been internationally agreed and proven over time for such a programme. Furthermore, it may take some time to move towards optimal and best practice approaches. Therefore, the programme will begin by sampling and testing according to what is reasonably achievable, with a gradual move over time towards best practice. Ideally, the lavatory waste tanks from every aircraft of interest would be sampled directly and tested for SARS- CoV-2, with sequencing being used to identify both known and novel variants. The viability of this approach has been proven technically. However, in many cases, sampling may initially be limited at lower levels of resolution, such as from lavatory servicing trucks or airports, and the testing may only test for SARS-CoV-2 and known variants.
This document summarises and cites published work undertaken to date, and describes sampling and testing methods. This document will be updated and revised as experience emerges during early 2023 with the intent being to set out more standardised, uniform and good practice methods. Further details will be provided on sampling strategy, practical aspects of sampling, testing methods, data analytics and bioinformatics, and interpreting and using the results to complement other evidence, such as from clinical testing.”
(Citation: European Commission – Adhoc guidance: Wastewater sampling of aircrafts and airports for SARS-CoV-2 surveillance. 10 January 2023. European Commission Brussels 2023)