Detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants by genomic analysis of wastewater samples in Israel

Itay Bar-Or, Merav Weil, Victoria Indenbaum, Efrat Bucris, Dana Bar-Ilan, Michal Elul, Nofar Levi, Irina Aguvaev, Zvi Cohen, Rachel Shirazi, Oran Erster, Alin Sela-Brown, Danit Sofer, Orna Mor, Ella Mendelson, Neta S. Zuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Investigation of SARS-CoV-2 spread and identification of variants in sewers has been demonstrated to accurately detect prevalence of viral strains and is advantageous to clinical sampling in population catchment size. Herein, we utilized an established nationwide system of wastewater sampling and viral concentration approaches to perform large-scale surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 variants in nine different locations across Israel that were sampled from August 2020 to February 2021 and sequenced (n = 58). Viral sequences obtained from the wastewater samples had high coverages of the genome, and mutation analyses successfully identified the penetration of the B.1.1.7 variant into Israel in December 2020 in the central and north regions, and its spread into additional regions in January and February 2021, corresponding with clinical sampling results. Moreover, the wastewater analysis identified the B.1.1.7 variant in December 2020 in regions in which non-sufficient clinical sampling was available. Other variants of concern examined, including P.1 (Brazil/Manaus), B.1.429 (USA/California), B.1.526 (USA/New York), A.23.1 (Uganda) and B.1.525 (Unknown origin), did not show consistently elevated frequencies. This study exemplifies that surveillance by sewage is a robust approach which allows to monitor the diversity of SARS-CoV-2 strains circulating in the community. Most importantly, this approach can pre-identify the emergence of epidemiologically or clinically relevant mutations/variants, aiding in public health decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148002
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sequencing
  • Sewage
  • Variants
  • Wastewater


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