Detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the Danube River in Serbia associated with the discharge of untreated wastewaters

Stoimir Kolarević, Adrienn Micsinai, Réka Szántó-Egész, Alena Lukács, Margareta Kračun-Kolarević, Lian Lundy, Alexander K T Kirschner, Andreas H Farnleitner, Aleksandar Djukic, Jasna Čolić, Tanja Nenin, Karolina Sunjog, Momir Paunović

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

27 Citations (Scopus)


In Serbia less than 13% of collected municipal wastewaters is being treated before their release in the environment. This includes all municipal wastewater discharges from Belgrade (capital city of Serbia; population 1,700,000). Previous research has identified the impacts of raw wastewater discharges from Belgrade on the Danube River, and this study investigated if such discharges also provided a pathway for SARS-CoV-2 RNA material. Samples were collected during the most critical circumstances that occurred so far within the COVID-19 pandemics in Serbia. Grab and composite samples were collected in December 2020, during the peak of the third wave (in terms of reported cases) at the site which receives the wastewater loads in Belgrade. Grab samples collected upstream and downstream of Belgrade were also analyzed. RNA was quantified using RT-qPCR with primer sets targeting nucleocapsid (N1 and N2) and envelope (E) protein genes. SARS-CoV-2 RNA (5.97 × 103 to 1.32 × 104 copies/L) was detected only in samples collected at the site strongly impacted by the wastewaters where all three applied primer sets gave positive signals. Determined concentrations correspond to those reported in wastewater influents sampled at treatment plants in other countries indicating an epidemiological indicator function of used approach for rivers with high pollution loads in countries with poor wastewater treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146967
Pages (from-to)146967
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Cities
  • Humans
  • RNA, Viral
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Serbia
  • Waste Water


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