Targeted Metagenomic Sequencing for Detection of Vertebrate Viruses in Wastewater for Public Health Surveillance

Camille McCall, Ryan A. Leo Elworth, Kristine M. Wylie, Todd N. Wylie, Katherine Dyson, Ryan Doughty, Todd J. Treangen, Loren Hopkins, Katherine Ensor, Lauren B. Stadler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Viruses of concern for quantitative wastewater monitoring are usually selected as a result of an outbreak and subsequent detection in wastewater. In addition, targeted metagenomics could proactively be used for widespread identification and sequencing of viruses of concern when used as an initial screening tool. To evaluate the utility of targeted metagenomics for wastewater screening, we used ViroCap, a panel of probes designed to target all known vertebrate viruses. Untreated wastewater was collected from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and building-level manholes associated with vulnerable populations in Houston, TX. We evaluated differences in vertebrate virus detection between WWTP and building-level samples, classified human viruses in wastewater, and performed phylogenetic analysis on astrovirus sequencing reads to evaluate targeted metagenomics for subspecies-level classification. Vertebrate viruses varied widely across building-level samples. Rarely detected and abundant viruses were identified in WWTP and building-level samples including enteric, respiratory, and bloodborne viruses. Furthermore, full-length genomes were assembled from astrovirus reads, and two human astrovirus serotypes were classified in wastewater samples. This study demonstrates the utility of targeted metagenomics as an initial screening step for public health surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2955-2965
Number of pages11
JournalACS ES and T Water
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 8 2023


  • astroviruses
  • capture sequencing
  • metagenomic shotgun sequencing
  • viruses
  • wastewater-based epidemiology


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