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Kick-off meeting in Athens

The large European project EU-WISH has been launch officially in February, during a fruitful kick-off meeting in Athens.

Wastewater surveillance and its associated epidemiological assessment have gained prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic. In different member states, it has proven to be an effective tool for gathering timely and valuable intelligence on the pandemic evolution. By quantitatively analysing virus particles in sewage, it was often possible to identify trends and establish correlations with clinical cases. It has been showed during the last years that wastewater-based surveillance can also play a crucial role in swiftly detecting emerging pathogens and assess their prevalence within a community.

The EU-WISH European Joint Action aims at further developing infectious agent surveillance using analyses of wastewater. The hope is that within a few years, by systematically examining samples of wastewater, it will be possible to relatively easily measure the occurrence of a wide range of diseases in European countries. EU-WISH involves 25 countries and 61 partners with the common objective of consolidating and further develop tools to strengthen the preparedness of Member States and the Union to cross-border health threats.

EU-WISH is an abbreviation for Wastewater Integrated Surveillance for Public Health in Europe, and the project runs for three years. The kick-off conference of the EU-WISH project took place from February 5th to 7th in Athens, under the auspices of the National Public Health Organisation of Greece (EODY), which ensures the scientific and technical co-coordinator of the Action.

At this occasion, the coordinator institution, Statens Serum Institut (SSI) in Denmark, reminded that disease surveillance is necessary for disease prevention and to be able to react quickly when there are signs of new epidemics. However, it is difficult to get an accurate and up-to-date picture of which infections are on the rise or declining across the EU – simply because the individual countries' healthcare systems and surveillance systems are very different. Wastewater analysis offers to provide a more objective picture. "The advantage would be that one could compare the results between countries and quickly get an overview of which diseases are circulating in the EU area. The European Commission sees wastewater monitoring as a powerful tool for the future and has therefore supported this large European collaboration project, which we have chosen to call EU-WISH," says Steen Ethelberg.

EU-WISH has course also many links with other actions taken across Europe. A part of the presentations and discussions in Athens concerned the concrete integration and impact of this project. Indeed, the project is very much about establishing collaboration between countries. And this is notably ensured by strong contacts between the different participants. One of the many benefits of this kick-off nicely coordinated by Anastasia Koutsolioutsou from EODY has certainly been to set solid foundation for the starting project EU -WISH.