RT-qPCR assays for SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in wastewater reveals compromised vaccination-induced immunity

Karin Yaniv, Eden Ozer, Yair Lewis, Ariel Kushmaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, demonstrating higher infection rate and lower vaccine effectiveness as compared with the original virus, are important factors propelling the ongoing COVID-19 global outbreak. Therefore, prompt identification of these variants in the environment is essential for pandemic assessment and containment efforts. One well established tool for such viral monitoring is the use of wastewater systems. Here, we describe continuous monitoring of traces of SARS-CoV-2 viruses in the municipal wastewater of a large city in Israel. By observing morbidity fluctuations (during three main COVID-19 surges) occurring in parallel with Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine vaccination rate, compromised immunity was revealed in the current morbidity peak. RT-qPCR assays for the Original (D614G), Alpha and Beta variants had been previously developed and are being employed for wastewater surveillance. In the present study we developed a sensitive RT-qPCR assay designed for the rapid, direct detection of Gamma and Delta variants of concern. Sensitive quantification and detection of the various variants showed the prevalence of the original variant during the first morbidity peak. The dominance of the Alpha variant over the original variant correlated with the second morbidity peak. These variants decreased concurrently with an increase in vaccinations (Feb-March 2021) and the observed decrease in morbidity. The appearance and subsequent rise of the Delta variant became evident and corresponded to the third morbidity peak (June-August 2021). These results suggest a high vaccine neutralization efficiency towards the Alpha variant compared to its neutralization efficiency towards the Delta variant. Moreover, the third vaccination dose (booster) seems to regain neutralization efficiency towards the Delta variant. The developed assays and wastewater-based epidemiology are important tools aiding in morbidity surveillance and disclosing vaccination efforts and immunity dynamics in the community.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117808
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Vaccination
  • Variants of concern
  • Wastewater-based epidemiological

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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