The novel SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: Possible environmental transmission, detection, persistence and fate during wastewater and water treatment

Sanjeeb Mohapatra, N. Gayathri Menon, Gayatree Mohapatra, Lakshmi Pisharody, Aryamav Pattnaik, N. Gowri Menon, Prudhvi Lal Bhukya, Manjita Srivastava, Meenakshi Singh, Muneesh Kumar Barman, Karina Yew Hoong Gin, Suparna Mukherji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for COVID-19 disease, has infected over 27 million people across the globe within a few months. While literature on SARS-CoV-2 indicates that its transmission may occur predominantly via aerosolization of virus-laden droplets, the possibility of alternate routes of transmission and/or reinfection via the environment requires considerable scientific attention. This review aims to collate information on possible transmission routes of this virus, to ascertain its fate in the environment. Concomitant with the presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in faeces and saliva of infected patients, studies also indicated its occurrence in raw wastewater, primary sludge and river water. Therefore sewerage system could be a possible route of virus outbreak, a possible tool to assess viral community spread and future surveillance technique. Hence, this review looked into detection, occurrence and fate of SARS-CoV-2 during primary, secondary, and tertiary wastewater and water treatment processes based on published literature on SARS-CoV and other enveloped viruses. The review also highlights the need for focused research on occurrence and fate of SARS-CoV-2 in various environmental matrices. Utilization of this information in environmental transmission models developed for other enveloped and enteric viruses can facilitate risk assessment studies. Preliminary research efforts with SARS-CoV-2 and established scientific reports on other coronaviruses indicate that the threat of virus transmission from the aquatic environment may be currently non-existent. However, the presence of viral RNA in wastewater provides an early warning that highlights the need for effective sewage treatment to prevent a future outbreak of SARS-CoV-2.

Original languageEnglish
Article number142746
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Faecal-oral transmission
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Transmission
  • Wastewater
  • Water treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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