Environmental Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in Wastewater and Groundwater in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Gabriela Rosiles-González, Victor Hugo Carrillo-Jovel, Liliana Alzate-Gaviria, Walter Q. Betancourt, Charles P. Gerba, Oscar A. Moreno-Valenzuela, Raúl Tapia-Tussell, Cecilia Hernández-Zepeda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The presence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA in wastewater has been reported as a result of fecal shedding of infected individuals. In this study, the occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA was explored in primary-treated wastewater from two municipal wastewater treatment plants in Quintana Roo, Mexico, along with groundwater from sinkholes, a household well, and submarine groundwater discharges. Physicochemical variables were obtained in situ, and coliphage densities were determined. Three virus concentration methods based on adsorption-elution and sequential filtration were used followed by RNA isolation. Quantification of SARS-CoV-2 was done by RT-qPCR using the CDC 2020 assay, 2019-nCoV_N1 and 2019-nCoV_N2. The Pepper mild mottle virus, one of the most abundant RNA viruses in wastewater was quantified by RT-qPCR and compared to SARS-CoV-2 concentrations. The use of three combined virus concentration methods together with two qPCR assays allowed the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in 58% of the wastewater samples analyzed, whereas none of the groundwater samples were positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater were from 1.8 × 103 to 7.5 × 103 genome copies per liter (GC l−1), using the N1 RT-qPCR assay, and from 2.4 × 102 to 5.9 × 103 GC l−1 using the N2 RT-qPCR assay. Based on PMMoV prevalence detected in all wastewater and groundwater samples tested, the three viral concentration methods used could be successfully applied for SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection in further studies. This study represents the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater in southeast Mexico and provides a baseline for developing a wastewater-based epidemiology approach in the area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-469
Number of pages13
JournalFood and Environmental Virology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Groundwater
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Viral indicators
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Food Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Virology


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