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Surveillance alert for fast epidemiology genomics and unified agile response to disease (SAFEGUARD) against respiratory viruses using wastewater surveillance


Generating solutions




Genomic Applications Partnership Program

Genome Centre(s)



Project Leader(s)

Fiscal Year Project Launched


Project Description

During the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater surveillance (WWS) was used by public health organizations around the world, including Canada, as an early warning system to predict outbreaks, detect the emergence of variants of concern and discover novel variants. WWS can be conducted for a fraction of the cost of clinical surveillance and can improve surveillance data and public health responsiveness in underserved communities. In addition, WWS can be applied to a broad range of pathogens such as the Monkeypox virus, poliovirus and antimicrobial resistance.

Currently, WWS programs in Canada are mostly limited to detecting SARS-COV-2. The SAFEGUARD project will take WWS to the next level by developing a robust and comprehensive genomics based WWS program for several key respiratory viruses. SAFEGUARD will provide provincial and national public health agencies with population-scale surveillance data and modelling tools enabling rapid responses to pathogens of concern. The project will also develop a formal surveillance program evaluation along with a wastewater preparedness toolkit to rapidly develop and implement wastewater tests for emerging threats across Canada. The toolkit will guide method validation, laboratory and analytical training, data interpretation and provide resources to put the research findings into practical use. The three-year SAFEGUARD pilot study in BC will guide strategic plans for the development of a pan-Canadian Wastewater Network and serve as an innovative model for use internationally. Canadians will benefit from quicker responses to public health threats.

Dr. Natalie Prystajecky and Dr. David McVea in UBC Centre for Disease Control research lab.
Analyzing wastewater samples in lab.