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Lancet Regional Health - Americas


BACKGROUND: Tracking infectious diseases at the community level is challenging due to asymptomatic infections and the logistical complexities of mass surveillance. Wastewater surveillance has emerged as a valuable tool for monitoring infectious disease agents including SARS-CoV-2 and Mpox virus. However, detecting the Mpox virus in wastewater is particularly challenging due to its relatively low prevalence in the community. In this study, we aim to characterize three molecular assays for detecting and tracking the Mpox virus in wastewater from El Paso, Texas, during February and March 2023.

METHODS: In this study, a combined approach utilizing three real-time PCR assays targeting the C22L, F3L, and F8L genes and sequencing was employed to detect and track the Mpox virus in wastewater samples. The samples were collected from four sewersheds in the City of El Paso, Texas, during February and March 2023. Wastewater data was compared with reported clinical case data in the city.

FINDINGS: Mpox virus DNA was detected in wastewater from all the four sewersheds, whereas only one Mpox case was reported during the sampling period. Positive signals were still observed in multiple sewersheds after the Mpox case was identified. Higher viral concentrations were found in the pellet than in the supernatant of wastewater. Notably, an increasing trend in viral concentration was observed approximately 1-2 weeks before the reporting of the Mpox case. Further sequencing and epidemiological analysis provided supporting evidence for unreported Mpox infections in the city.

INTERPRETATION: Our analysis suggests that the Mpox cases in the community is underestimated. The findings emphasize the value of wastewater surveillance as a public health tool for monitoring infectious diseases even in low-prevalence areas, and the need for heightened vigilance to mitigate the spread of Mpox disease for safeguarding global health.

FUNDING: Center of Infectious Diseases at UTHealth, the University of Texas System, and the Texas Epidemic Public Health Institute. The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of these funding organizations.

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