Analytical performance comparison of four SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR primer-probe sets for wastewater samples

Publication Name

Science of the Total Environment


Current studies have confirmed the feasibility of SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection by RT-qPCR assays in wastewater samples as an effective surveillance tool of COVID-19 prevalence in a community. Analytical performance of various RT-qPCR assays has been compared against wastewater samples based on the positive ratio. However, there is no systematic comparison work has been conducted for both analytical sensitivity and quantitative reliability against wastewater, which are essential factors for WBE. In this study, the detection performance of four RT-qPCR primer-probe sets, including CCDC-N, CDC-N1, N-Sarbeco, and E-Sarbeco, was systematically evaluated with pure synthetized plasmids, spiked wastewater mocks and raw wastewater samples. In addition to confirm RT-qPCR results, Nanopore sequencing was employed to delineate at molecular level for the analytical sensitivity and reproducibility of those primer-probe sets. CCDC-N showed high sensitivity and the broadest linearity range for wastewater samples. It was thus recommended to be the most efficient tool in the quantitative analysis of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. CDC-N1 had the highest sensitivity for real wastewater and thus would be suitable for the screening of wastewater for the presence of SARS-CoV-2. When applying the primer-probe sets to wastewater samples collected from different Australian catchments, increased active clinical cases were observed with the augment of SARS-CoV-2 RNA quantified by RT-qPCR in wastewater in low prevalence communities.

Open Access Status

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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