Sewage can serve as an indicator of public health in the Netherlands. Many diseases that occur within a group of people can be detected in sewage. This includes infectious diseases such as COVID-19 (caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2) and non-infectious diseases. By examining sewage samples, we can also identify substances that tell us more about our lifestyle or living environment. Sewage research is useful and important, especially in conjunction with other forms of public health research.
Monkeypox is a viral infection that originally occurred primarily in West Africa and Central Africa. The disease has also been spreading in other parts of the world since the spring of 2022. Research carried out by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) reveals that the DNA of the virus can also be found in sewage.
Sewage research can provide a clear picture of medicine use among the general population and give insight into the illegal market for medicines. Sewage research can also indicate the extent to which medicine residues are ending up in the environment.
Sewage research offers great potential for detecting diseases and specific substances. Working with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the regional water boards, RIVM is currently exploring whether sewage research will be expanded in the future.