Wastewater-based surveillance identifies start to the pediatric respiratory syncytial virus season in two cities in Ontario, Canada

Elisabeth Mercier, Lakshmi Pisharody, Fiona Guy, Shen Wan, Nada Hegazy, Patrick M. D’Aoust, Md Pervez Kabir, Tram Bich Nguyen, Walaa Eid, Bart Harvey, Erin Rodenburg, Candy Rutherford, Alex E. Mackenzie, Jacqueline Willmore, Charles Hui, Bosco Paes, Robert Delatolla, Nisha Thampi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction: Detection of community respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections informs the timing of immunoprophylaxis programs and hospital preparedness for surging pediatric volumes. In many jurisdictions, this relies upon RSV clinical test positivity and hospitalization (RSVH) trends, which are lagging indicators. Wastewater-based surveillance (WBS) may be a novel strategy to accurately identify the start of the RSV season and guide immunoprophylaxis administration and hospital preparedness. Methods: We compared citywide wastewater samples and pediatric RSVH in Ottawa and Hamilton between August 1, 2022, and March 5, 2023. 24-h composite wastewater samples were collected daily and 5 days a week at the wastewater treatment facilities in Ottawa and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, respectively. RSV WBS samples were analyzed in real-time for RSV by RT-qPCR. Results: RSV WBS measurements in both Ottawa and Hamilton showed a lead time of 12 days when comparing the WBS data set to pediatric RSVH data set (Spearman’s ρ = 0.90). WBS identify early RSV community transmission and declared the start of the RSV season 36 and 12 days in advance of the provincial RSV season start (October 31) for the city of Ottawa and Hamilton, respectively. The differing RSV start dates in the two cities is likely associated with geographical and regional variation in the incidence of RSV between the cities. Discussion: Quantifying RSV in municipal wastewater forecasted a 12-day lead time of the pediatric RSVH surge and an earlier season start date compared to the provincial start date. These findings suggest an important role for RSV WBS to inform regional health system preparedness, reduce RSV burden, and understand variations in community-related illness as novel RSV vaccines and monoclonal antibodies become available.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1261165
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • active immunization
  • community incidence
  • hospital-level preparedness
  • palivizumab
  • pediatric hospitalization
  • respiratory syncytial virus
  • season start date
  • wastewater-based surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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