TÜBİTAK – NSFC (China) Bilateral Cooperation Project

The Water Institute of Turkey will contribute as a project partner together with Marmara University Department of Environmental Engineering, General Directorate of Food and Control Istanbul Pendik Veterinary Control Institute and Health Sciences University International Medical Faculty to the project “Establishment of a SARS-CoV-2 Surveillance System for Public Health Using Wastewater Sludge Monitoring”, which is entitled to be supported by Istanbul Medipol University International Medical Faculty and China Capital Medical University within the framework of the Scientific and Technological Cooperation Protocol between TÜBİTAK and China National Natural Science Fund (NSFC). Dr. Halil Kurt, a faculty member at our center, is working as a researcher in the project.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a worrying international public health emergency. Countries around the world are addressing numerous control measures to comprehensively prepare for and respond to COVID-19. Large-scale and repeated COVID-19 individual screening testing is not economically feasible. Anticipating possible exacerbations of the COVID-19 pandemic is of strategic importance for the timely implementation of social measures and pandemic containment.

This study aims to create an early warning system for the community by using the regeneration equation epidemic model and community infection rate prediction model with wastewater sludge monitoring system to predict the average infection level of communities in Beijing and Istanbul.

Sludge samples will be collected from wastewater treatment plants. SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection will be performed by RT-qPCR and LAMP assays. Optimization studies will be carried out by the Turkish team comparing the performance of different RNA isolation methods (manual and automated) and RT-qPCR assays. Modifications to the isolation and RT-qPCR procedures will be implemented to counter PCR inhibition. The sensitivity of RT-qPCR assays for different target regions will be evaluated.

The results of SARS-CoV-2 surveillance will be shared with the Chinese team and epidemiological modeling will be performed by members of this group. This bilateral project will bring together the Turkish team’s experience in SARS-CoV-2 detection in wastewater samples with the Chinese team’s experience in epidemiological model development and will lead to the development of an early warning system for SARS-COV-2 infection.