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Wastewater surveillance is a promising approach to monitor biological and chemical contaminants on a community level, as demonstrated by its re-emergence as a valuable public health tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in wastewater can be used to track trends in community viral levels and can be an early indicator of clinical infections. 

Wastewater is being increasingly surveilled for additional viral pathogens such as influenza, polio, mpox, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as bacterial and fungal pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes.  However, data are often incomparable across locations due to the high variability in sampling protocols, sample processing, detection methods, data analysis, and reporting platforms. 

NIST is supporting the nation’s growing wastewater surveillance efforts by working with stakeholders to identify and develop measurement-based solutions and standards to increase confidence and comparability in wastewater surveillance results for biological targets.


  • NIST is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS/S&T) to develop documentary standards and reference materials to support an enduring capability in wastewater surveillance. 
  • Ongoing activities include:
    • Development of a research grade test material for 17 antibiotic resistance gene targets to support expanded surveillance efforts.
    • SWWS Working Group (launched in February 2023) to develop standards related to wastewater surveillance.  The initial focus is a guidance-based documentary standard.  Please complete this form if you would like to join the Working Group.
  • research grade test material (RGTM 10223) for mpox is freely available and consists of linearized plasmid DNA containing 9 PCR target regions of the mpox virus genome to aid with clinical diagnostics and wastewater surveillance.



Post-doctoral fellowship opportunities through the National Research Council include:

Created December 5, 2022, Updated April 25, 2024