Wastewater-based epidemiology in hazard forecasting and early-warning systems for global health risks

B Kasprzyk-Hordern, B Adams, I D Adewale, F O Agunbiade, M I Akinyemi, E Archer, F A Badru, J Barnett, I J Bishop, M Di Lorenzo, P Estrela, J Faraway, M J Fasona, S A Fayomi, E J Feil, L J Hyatt, A T Irewale, T Kjeldsen, A K S Lasisi, S LoiselleT M Louw, B Metcalfe, S A Nmormah, T O Oluseyi, T R Smith, M C Snyman, T O Sogbanmu, D Stanton-Fraser, S Surujlal-Naicker, P R Wilson, G Wolfaardt, C O Yinka-Banjo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)


With the advent of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (WBE) has been applied to track community infection in cities worldwide and has proven succesful as an early warning system for identification of hotspots and changingprevalence of infections (both symptomatic and asymptomatic) at a city or sub-city level. Wastewater is only one of environmental compartments that requires consideration. In this manuscript, we have critically evaluated the knowledge-base and preparedness for building early warning systems in a rapidly urbanising world, with particular attention to Africa, which experiences rapid population growth and urbanisation. We have proposed a Digital Urban Environment Fingerprinting Platform (DUEF) - a new approach in hazard forecasting and early-warning systems for global health risks and an extension to the existing concept of smart cities. The urban environment (especially wastewater) contains a complex mixture of substances including toxic chemicals, infectious biological agents and human excretion products. DUEF assumes that these specific endo- and exogenous residues, anonymously pooled by communities' wastewater, are indicative of community-wide exposure and the resulting effects. DUEF postulates that the measurement of the substances continuously and anonymously pooled by the receiving environment (sewage, surface water, soils and air), can provide near real-time dynamic information about the quantity and type of physical, biological or chemical stressors to which the surveyed systems are exposed, and can create a risk profile on the potential effects of these exposures. Successful development and utilisation of a DUEF globally requires a tiered approach including: Stage I: network building, capacity building, stakeholder engagement as well as a conceptual model, followed by Stage II: DUEF development, Stage III: implementation, and Stage IV: management and utilization. We have identified four key pillars required for the establishment of a DUEF framework: (1) Environmental fingerprints, (2) Socioeconomic fingerprints, (3) Statistics and modelling and (4) Information systems. This manuscript critically evaluates the current knowledge base within each pillar and provides recommendations for further developments with an aim of laying grounds for successful development of global DUEF platforms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107143
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date14 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022


  • Citizen science
  • Early warning system
  • Global health
  • Socio-economic fingerprints
  • Urban water fingerprinting
  • Wastewater-based epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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