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Original article

Vol. 154 No. 3 (2024)

Association between the number of symptomatic mpox cases and the detection of mpox virus DNA in wastewater in Switzerland: an observational surveillance study

  • Claudia Bagutti
  • Monica Alt Hug
  • Philippe Heim
  • Evelyn Ilg Hampe
  • Philipp Hübner
  • Timothy R. Julian
  • Katrin N. Koch
  • Kerstin Grosheintz
  • Melanie Kraus
  • Carla Schaubhut
  • Rahel Tarnutzer
  • Eva Würfel
  • Simon Fuchs
  • Sarah Tschudin-Sutter
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2024;154:3706


AIM OF THE STUDY: The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the benefit of wastewater-based epidemiology, particularly when case numbers are underreported. Underreporting may be an issue with mpox, where biological reasons and stigma may prevent patients from getting tested. Therefore, we aimed to assess the validity of wastewater surveillance for monitoring mpox virus DNA in wastewater of a Central European city and its association with official case numbers.

METHODS: Wastewater samples were collected between 1 July and 28 August 2022 in the catchment area of Basel, Switzerland, and the number of mpox virus genome copies they contained was determined by real-time quantitative PCR. Logistic regression analyses were used to determine the odds of detectability of mpox virus DNA in wastewater, categorised as detectable or undetectable. Mann–Whitney U tests were used to determine associations between samples that tested positive for the mpox virus and officially reported cases and patients’ recorded symptomatic phases.

RESULTS: Mpox virus DNA was detected in 15 of 39 wastewater samples. The number of positive wastewater samples was associated with the number of symptomatic cases (odds ratio [OR] = 2.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.38–3.43, p = 0.001). The number of symptomatic cases differed significantly between days with positive versus negative wastewater results (median = 11 and 8, respectively, p = 0.0024).

CONCLUSION: Mpox virus DNA was detectable in wastewater, even when officially reported case numbers were low (0–3 newly reported mpox cases corresponding to 6–12 symptomatic patients). Detectability in wastewater was significantly associated with the number of symptomatic patients within the catchment area. These findings illustrate the value of wastewater-based surveillance systems when assessing the prevalence of emerging and circulating infectious diseases.


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