“I never thought I’d say this, but it’s an exciting time to be talking about sewage,” says Michelle Mello (BA ’93), professor of law and professor of health policy. A member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Community Wastewater-based Infectious Disease Surveillance, Mello is the co-author of Wastewater-based Disease Surveillance for Public Health Action, a report released January 19. The peer-reviewed report, produced at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), details how community-level wastewater surveillance has been critical for informing public health decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as when to lift mask mandates and where to situate testing and vaccination sites. The report offers recommendations to strengthen nationwide coordination and ensure a national wastewater surveillance system that is flexible, equitable, and sustainable to inform the public health response to COVID-19 and future infectious diseases.
“The pandemic spurred tremendous innovation and technological advances in wastewater surveillance,” Mello says. “The challenge now is how to sustain and build on that to make this success story permanent.” SL