PhD: Wastewater monitoring for SARS-CoV-2 and other microbial pathogens

Queen's Belfast University

Belfast, UK 🇬🇧

Funding: Unfunded

Reference Number: SBIO-2020-1137

Application Deadline: None specified

Start Date: None specified


As SARS-CoV-2 is shed in high levels in faeces, wastewater testing has become a complementary, early-warning strategy for outbreaks of Covid-19, aiding governmental decision-making around future infection prevention/control policies. Wastewater monitoring provides a cheap, non-invasive method to determine the level of infection in a large community within a single sample (composite 24-hour sewage samples represent an aggregate of an entire population within the sewerage network). Importantly, as faecal shedding occurs in the pre-symptomatic phase, evidence also suggests that it can be used as an early warning system to indicate when levels of SARS-CoV-2 are rising (or falling) in the community and before individuals require hospitalisation. Moreover, wastewater surveillance also allows for the tracking of other pathogens (e.g. Influenza, Norovirus, Hepatitis A and E, Enterovirus, Adenovirus, Rotavirus) as well as providing information on antimicrobial resistance genes.

A number of projects are available within the Queen’s University Wastewater Epidemiology Group covering:

1) Development of methods for SARS-CoV-2 detection in wastewater.

2) Assessment of viral infectivity and stability in wastewater samples.

3) Use of next generation sequencing to study SARS-CoV-2 variants and other pathogens within the wastewater system.

4) Development of strategies for the detection of other microbial pathogens within wastewater, and the evaluation of their viability.

5) Investigation of clinically relevant antimicrobial resistance genes within wastewater microbiomes.

Supervisors: Professor John McGrath (School of Biological Sciences), Dr Derek Fairley (Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences), Dr Connor Bamford (School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences), and Dr Deirdre Gilpin (School of Pharmacy).

Contact: Professor John McGrath (





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development