Tracing the fate and infectivity of human pathogenic viruses through the environment

Investigating the origin and fate of human pathogenic viruses in the freshwater-marine continuum

Viruses such as Norovirus (winter vomiting bug) and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pose one of the biggest threats to human wellbeing being responsible for numerous infections and millions of deaths worldwide each year. Our understanding of the behaviour of human pathogenic viruses in the environment, however, remains poor. This is limiting our potential to protect human health. In view of this, our project aims to develop new tools for the detection and surveillance of human pathogenic viruses in freshwater, estuarine and coastal environments. These tools will enable us to study the origin, diversity and fate of viral populations in both space and time. The information gathered in this project will be used to design new guidelines for assessing infection risk (e.g. in recreational waters, beaches & shellfisheries) and for protecting human health. In addition, our new NERC VIRAQUA II project is monitoring the incidence of COVID-19 in wastewater with the aim of capturing the number of infections at the regional level in the UK.

The VIRAQUA and VIRAQUA II project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) under the Environmental Microbiology and Human Health (EMHH) Programme (VIRAQUA I), NERC URGENCY programme (VIRAQUA II), Welsh Government, Defra and DHSC (VIRAQUA III). The national wastewater monitoring programme is now funded until the end of 2022 (jointly with Cardiff University and Welsh Water). This is part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Project Partners