LSU Named a Center of Excellence for Wastewater Epidemiology

April 07, 2022

Dr. Gus Kousoulas and Staff

From left, Drs. Gus Kousoulas, Ramesh Subramanian, Vladimir Chouljenko, and Nithya Jambunathan 

LSU has been designated as one of 16 new Centers of Excellence for Wastewater Epidemiology by Ceres Nanosciences, a privately held company that makes products to improve life science research and diagnostic testing. The centers are supported by an $8.2 million award from the National Institutes of Health Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Initiative.

Each center was selected based on its ability to utilize the expanded capacity to extend services into underserved and underprivileged communities and is expected to share results with local and state public health authorities, as well as submit data to the CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System.

“Our partnership with Ceres Nanoscience has allowed us to dramatically increase sample throughput for our existing surveillance programs, returning data faster to decision makers and allowing us to test new municipalities and congregant settings in Louisiana,” said John Pardue, LSU Environmental Engineering professor.

LSU’s comprehensive on-campus wastewater monitoring program, a collaboration between faculty in the LSU College of Engineering and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, Division of Biotechnology & Molecular Medicine (BioMMED), has been expanded to 26 locations covering all residential and Greek housing once per week with fully integrated door-to-door medical testing upon exceedance of trigger values.

“To date, we have processed over 2,500 independent wastewater samples collected from major treatment plants across the City of Baton Rouge, as well as dormitories and college buildings on the LSU Campus,” said Gus Kousoulas, BioMMED director.

“In addition, this collaborative effort has been tracking the emergence of new variants using Next Generation (Illumina)-based sequencing technologies and advanced bioinformatics analyses. In early December, the team detected for the first time the Omicron variant in Baton Rouge. BioMMED is also actively engaged in investigating antivirals and vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID.”

Selection as a Center of Excellence will allow LSU to increase the timeliness of its testing program and expand its surveillance to many smaller sewersheds in East Baton Rouge Parish to examine the dynamics of SARS CoV-2 and other viral targets among underserved populations in the parish.

“Monitoring of COVID-19 is just the tip of the iceberg for what might be made possible by wastewater surveillance,” said Aaron Bivins, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We are proud to partner with Ceres Nanosciences and look forward to leveraging their unique technology to develop wastewater surveillance capabilities for other infectious diseases.”

Related Stories: 

LSU CEE Professor to Track COVID-19 in Baton Rouge Through Wastewater (June 9, 2020)

LSU Researchers to Test Campus Wastewater for COVID-19 Cases (Sept. 9, 2020)

LSU CEE Professor Bivins Studying Wastewater on International Flights (Jan. 31, 2022)