Wastewater testing is a valuable surveillance tool for public health laboratories. The rapid rise of COVID-19 variants makes it increasingly important for public agencies to be able to diagnose and respond quickly to areas with increased risk. In response to this unprecedented threat, the NIH CDC Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) has recently been updated to specify the appropriate facilities in which this testing can be conducted.
This guidance for environmental specimens is intended for only those laboratories that perform virus concentration procedures, including wastewater/sewage surveillance testing, and not for public health or clinical diagnostic laboratories that handle COVID-19 clinical specimens or laboratories that perform culture and isolation of SARS-CoV-2. Site and activity-specific biosafety risk assessments should be performed to determine if additional biosafety precautions are warranted based on situational needs, such as high testing volumes or large volumes, and the likelihood to generate infectious droplets and aerosols. Procedures that concentrate viruses, such as precipitation or membrane filtration, can be performed in a BSL-2 laboratory with unidirectional airflow and BSL-3 precautions, including respiratory protection and a designated area for donning and doffing PPE. The donning and doffing space should not be in the workspace. Work should be performed in a certified Class II BSC. Read More.