Tracking the footsteps of SARS-CoV-2 in the wastewater of A Coruña

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is capable of binding to the ACE2 receptors present in a great variety of the cells of our organism, including intestinal cells, by means of the S protein, which forms the corona crown spikes, originating in the COVID-19 disease. Numerous scientific studies throughout the world have confirmed the presence of the virus in the faeces of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected subjects, from the early stages of colonisation until approximately one month after testing negative for the disease in tests carried out on samples taken from the upper respiratory tract.


Publicly-owned company EDAR BENS SA, led by Carlos Lamora, provides the wastewater treatment services to A Coruña City Council and to the neighbouring municipalities of Arteixo, Cambre, Culleredo and Oleiros. The company serves approximately 450,000 residents of the metropolitan area. In order to address the current health crisis caused by the SARS-CoV-2, EDAR BENS SA has commissioned a research team from the Instituto de Investigación Biomédica (INIBIC), the Universidade da Coruña (UDC), the Centro de Investigaciones Científicas Avanzadas (CICA), the Centro de Investigación TIC (CITIC) de A Coruña and the University of Vienna to carry out a project to monitor the presence and abundance of the virus in the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) for the purpose of epidemiological analysis.

At this point in time, it is not possible to test the entire population and for this reason, the possibility of determining the viral load in wastewater constitutes a powerful, robust tool that enables WWTPs to be used as “watchdogs” for the epidemic and predict new outbreaks in the future. Monitoring of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in wastewater was first carried out in the Netherlands, the USA and Sweden, and subsequently in numerous regions worldwide. It has now been established as a model capable of going beyond health warnings because it enables in-depth knowledge of the true extent of the problem.

The research team, subsidised by Edar Bens SA and coordinated by microbiologist Margarita Poza, is made up of experts from different disciplines in the fields of biology, information technology, mathematics, engineering and chemistry. Moreover, the project falls within the framework of the Norman Network, along with projects from countries such as Germany, Norway, France, Switzerland, Slovakia, amongst others. The main objective is to facilitate comparison of data related to SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater at European level, thereby achieving a more global analysis of the pandemic.

Margarita Poza Domínguez

Microbiology Researcher at the Instituto de Investigación Biomédica de A Coruña

 Associate Professor at the Universidade da Coruña

Published in: FuturENVIRO Nº 69 AprilMay 2020