Population level SARS-CoV-2 fecal shedding rates determined via wastewater-based epidemiology

Sarah M. Prasek, Ian L. Pepper, Gabriel K. Innes, Stephanie Slinski, Martha Ruedas, Ana Sanchez, Paul Brierley, Walter Q. Betancourt, Erika R. Stark, Aidan R. Foster, Nick D. Betts-Childress, Bradley W. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been utilized as an early warning tool to anticipate disease outbreaks, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, COVID-19 disease models built from wastewater-collected data have been limited by the complexities involved in estimating SARS-CoV-2 fecal shedding rates. In this study, wastewater from six municipalities in Arizona and Florida with distinct demographics were monitored for SARS-CoV-2 RNA between September 2020 and December 2021. Virus concentrations with corresponding clinical case counts were utilized to estimate community-wide fecal shedding rates that encompassed all infected individuals. Analyses suggest that average SARS-CoV-2 RNA fecal shedding rates typically occurred within a consistent range (7.53–9.29 log10 gc/g-feces); and yet, were unique to each community and influenced by population demographics. Age, ethnicity, and socio-economic factors may have influenced shedding rates. Interestingly, populations with median age between 30 and 39 had the greatest fecal shedding rates. Additionally, rates remained relatively constant throughout the pandemic provided conditions related to vaccination and variants were unchanged. Rates significantly increased in some communities when the Delta variant became predominant. Findings in this study suggest that community-specific shedding rates may be appropriate in model development relating wastewater virus concentrations to clinical case counts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number156535
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Sep 10 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Community demographics
  • Fecal shedding
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Wastewater-based epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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