Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

What toilets can reveal about COVID, cancer and other health threats

A technician collects a water sample from a sedimentation tank for analysis at a wastewater treatment plant.

Samples of wastewater can be tested for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, an approach that could become part of routine disease surveillance. Credit: Sevrette/Andia via Alamy

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Nature 628, 492-494 (2024)


Updates & Corrections

  • Correction 24 April 2024: An earlier version of this News feature incorrectly stated that Tong Zhang and his colleagues at the University of Hong Kong are currently testing wastewater for COVID-19 at 20 sites around the city. This testing is being done by a government team, while Zhang’s team has expanded testing to other public-health concerns.


  1. Deng, Y. et al. Environ. Health Perspect. 130, 057008 (2022).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Medema, G., Heijnen, L., Elsinga, G., Italiaander, I. & Brouwer, A. Environ. Sci. Techol. Lett. 7, 511–516 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Graham, K. E. et al. Environ. Sci. Technol. 55, 488–498 (2021).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Therrien, J.-D. et al. Water Sci. Technol. 89, 1–19 (2024).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Hill, D. T. et al. Infect. Dis. Model. 8, 1138–1150 (2023).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Smyth, D. S. et al. Nature Commun. 13, 635 (2022).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Keshaviah, A., Diamond, M. B., Wade, M. J. & Scarpino, S. V. Lancet Glob. Health 11, E976–E981 (2023).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


Latest on:

Nature Careers


  • Endowed Chair in Macular Degeneration Research

    Dallas, Texas (US)

    The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern Medical Center)

  • Postdoctoral Fellow

    Postdoc positions on ERC projects – cellular stress responses, proteostasis and autophagy

    Frankfurt am Main, Hessen (DE)

    Goethe University (GU) Frankfurt am Main - Institute of Molecular Systems Medicine

  • ZJU 100 Young Professor

    Promising young scholars who can independently establish and develop a research direction.

    Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

    Zhejiang University

  • Qiushi Chair Professor

    Distinguished scholars with notable achievements and extensive international influence.

    Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

    Zhejiang University

  • Research Postdoctoral Fellow - MD

    Houston, Texas (US)

    Baylor College of Medicine (BCM)

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing


Quick links