Are non-human primates vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 publicity via wastewater contact?

Extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spreads from human to human primarily via droplet transmission. Viral RNA will be detected in nasal and saliva secretions, and sneezing and coughing out droplets carrying the virus can result in an infection of people over one meter away.

Study: SARS-CoV-2 and wastewater: What does it mean for non-human primates?. Image Credit: slowmotiongli/ ShutterstockResearch: SARS-CoV-2 and wastewater: What does it imply for non-human primates?. Picture Credit score: slowmotiongli/ Shutterstock

The virus can even stay suspended within the air for as much as an hour. The tactic of transmission, the illness’s excessive infectivity, and the hazard posed to at-risk people led to many international locations worldwide imposing mass restrictions, together with lockdowns, social distancing restrictions, and necessary face masks in all public locations.

SARS-CoV-2 can even unfold via feces and wastewater. In additional economically developed international locations, fashionable sanitation and sewage remedy reduce the probability of transmission and hurt to the native ecology. Nonetheless, in international locations with fewer sewage remedy and disposal choices, there are worries that sewage discharged into pure water programs might result in non-human primates (NHPs) publicity to SARS-CoV-2.

The illness has already proven anthropozoonotic capacity, with strains that infect mink, a number of rodents, and lots of primates. In a examine printed within the American Journal of Primatology, researchers from Dalhousie College in Halifax have been investigating the potential for SARS-CoV-2 to unfold to NHP via wastewater.


A big a part of the pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 is as a result of spike protein. Many copies of this homotrimer are current on the floor of the viral cell molecule. The spike protein contains two subunits: S1, which incorporates a receptor-binding area (RBD) that may bind to a number of receptors, however primarily binds to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to permit viral cell entry, and S2, which is chargeable for membrane fusion. Many variants of concern present totally different conformations of the spike protein, which is a part of the rationale that they elicit a decrease preliminary immune response in each vaccinated and beforehand convalescent people.

The examine

The researchers recognized a number of primates considered of explicit danger of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Chimpanzees have proven an infection by earlier human coronaviruses. African and Asian apes/monkeys are additionally predicted to be inclined, exhibiting related ACE2 sequences to people. Fortunately, missense mutations could shield a portion of their inhabitants. The West African/Caribbean inexperienced monkey is a major instance of this: a standard missense in ACE2 on this organism doubtless reduces the affinity of the RBD for ACE2. Different fashions have thus far supported these predictions, with the widespread marmoset predicted to have a excessive probability to keep away from an infection – which has since been noticed. In inclined monkeys, illness patterns differ, however the organism’s age appears to stay a big danger issue.

Whereas there’s little proof for the present unfold of SARS-CoV-2 to NHP populations via wastewater getting into pure water sources, NHPs have been proven to develop into contaminated by human illnesses from sewage previously. Chimpanzees uncovered to sewage at Gombe Nationwide Park have struggled with repeated Cryptosporidium infections.

Nonetheless, the researchers conclude that wastewater flowing into pure water sources is an unlikely supply of SARS-CoV-2 an infection in NHP. A 2020 examine has proven that SARS-CoV-2 suffers a 90% discount in viability after only one.5 days in room temperature wastewater and 1.7 in faucet water.

At increased temperatures, the chances are high that the virus will degrade much more shortly. Given the large dilution following sewage getting into giant lakes and rivers, it isn’t real looking to unfold the illness to NHP populations via these vectors. SARS-CoV-2 has by no means been remoted from sewage-contaminated waters. The researchers posit that preliminary worries over this route have been pushed by small-scale research in cells in tradition and misunderstandings attributable to early analysis.

Nonetheless, contemporary sewage in densely populated areas does stay a priority. Many types of primates search residence in human cities and have important contact with people. Within the preliminary extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1) epidemic, the outbreak in Amoy Gardens was linked to a plumbing failure. Road sewage puddles in Guangzhou, China, have been linked to outbreaks and testing optimistic for the illness.


The researchers spotlight the significance of NHP in biomedical analysis and urge motion to guard them from contemporary human sewage. They argue that if NHP is allowed to stay a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 variants, secondary zoonotic outcomes might lead to a brand new pandemic spreading sooner or later, and suggest a number of measures together with wastewater monitoring and probably vaccination of NHPs to guard their inhabitants.

Journal reference:

  • Mathavarajah, S. et al., (2021) SARS-CoV-2 and wastewater: What does it imply for non-human primates? American Journal of Primatology. doi:

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