2nd International Conference Testing the Waters 2015 a tremendous success

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), SEWPROF, SCORE, and Eawag organised the second International Conference Testing the Waters 2015 at the conference centre Congressi Stefano Franscini, at Monte Verità, Ascona above Lago Maggiore, in Switzerland (11-15 October 2015) .


Conference Themes

  • Monitoring Studies: targeted sampling at local, regional, national and international scale, preferably integrating wastewater results with other epidemiological data.
  • Methodological Improvements: quantifying and reducing uncertainty of back-calculation, monitoring design and in-sewer transformation.
  • Advances in Analytical Chemistry: method refinements and ability to measure new substances.
  • Ethical and Legal Aspects: discussion of settings requiring special attention.
  • Innovative Applications: wastewater analysis for community-wide health assessment beyond illicit drugs.

The conference proved to be a tremendous success. All ERs and ESRs from SEWPROF ITN gave oral presentations on their research.

Wastewater analysis – New data multi-city study on the drug wastewater analysis released

New findings of the largest European study on illicit drugs in wastewater analysis were published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in Lisbon as part of the EMCDDA European Drug Report 2015 (EDR). The report presents the latest data on cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and cannabis levels obtained in wastewater of European cities measured by the European SCORE network. Findings are available here.

The purpose of the SCORE study was to assess geographical differences and temporal changes in illicit drug use in metropolitan settings across the region. It is the second, and most extensive, WWA application to date, covering multiple countries, over consecutive years (2011–14) and obtained according to a fixed protocol.

Wastewater analysis is a rapidly developing and novel scientific discipline with the potential for monitoring near-real-time population-level trends in illicit drug use. By sampling a known source of wastewater, such as a sewage influent to a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), scientists can now estimate the quantity of drugs used in a community by measuring the levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites excreted in urine.

From London to Nicosia and Stockholm to Lisbon, the study analysed daily wastewater samples in the catchment areas of WWTPs over a one-week period in April 2014. The results were compared to data collected in the years 2011-2013[1]. Wastewater from approximately 29 million people was analysed for traces of five illicit drugs: amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine.

The WWA results provide a valuable snapshot of the drug flow through the cities involved, revealing marked regional variations in drug use patterns. Trace of cocaine, for example, were higher in western and some southern European cities but lower in northern and eastern cities. Use of ecstasy revealed that The Netherlands, Norway, UK, Denmark and Australia showed the highest levels. Use of amphetamine, while relatively evenly distributed, showed the highest levels in the north and northwest of Europe. Methamphetamine use, generally low and traditionally concentrated in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Scandinavia, also appears to be substantial in Australia. And when weekly patterns of drug use were examined, cocaine and ecstasy levels rose sharply at weekends in most cities, while methamphetamine and cannabis use appeared to be more evenly distributed throughout the week.

The EMCDDA EDR 2014 concluded that ‘Wastewater analysis provides the possibility to collect and report measurements more quickly and regularly than is the current norm for national surveys’. The EDR 2015 shows that WWA indeed serves as a complement to other European drug surveillance methods, with the clear potential to shed extra light on drug use trends in Europe, including the use of new psychoactive substances.

[1] See Journal article: Spatial differences and temporal changes in illicit drug use in Europe quantified by wastewater analysis. Addiction 109 (2014) 1338-1352 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.12570/abstract;jsessionid=6E856F030CDBBCA46124C551C44896B5.f04t02

SEWPROF ITN meets in Milan

SEWPROF: Fourth Training school 17-18 September Milan

The fourth SEWPROF Training School took place on 17-18 September 2014 at the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, Milan, Italy. Title of the Course: “Assessing human health and lifestyle by sewage epidemiology”

Here you can find the program (PDF) and the minutes (PDF) also shown below. This course was co-organised together with the EU-funded COST network action ES1307  named  SCORE

Welcome to participants

The participants were welcomed by Sara Castiglioni and Ettore Zuccato at the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, in Milan. A brief introduction about the Institute research activity and the topics of Training School was given by Sara Castiglioni.

Milan 1

First Day “Molecular toxicology and human pharmacokinetics (including substance misuse)”

The first day activity was focused on pharmacokinetic and toxicology related to substance misuse and eight lectures were given.

Firstly, Jane Mounteney (European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction) presented the latest trends and developments in Europe’s drug situation and the responses which are being implemented. Jorgen Bramness (University of Oslo) lectures were focused on pharmacology and pharmaco-epidemiology of prescription drugs (such as antipsychotic drugs) with abuse potentials. Markus Meyer (University of Saarland) presented an overview of pharmacokinetic processes and focused on new tools to perform studies on drugs (and new drugs) metabolism. Barbara Karsprzyk-Hordern (university of Bath) gave a lecture on the pharmacokinetic relevance of enantiomeric profiling of chiral drugs in wastewater-based epidemiology and Christoph Ort (Eawag-Aquatic Research) on the current approaches used to estimate the number of inhabitants served by a sewage treatment plant and population dynamic (this lecture was scheduled originally for the second day, but it was anticipated for logistic reasons).

Finally, after lunch Luigi Cervo (Mario Negri Institute) presented several examples of long-lasting neuroplastic changes related to drug abuse and Sara Castiglioni (Mario Negri Institute) showed how pharmacokinetic studies can be used to identify potential environmental contaminants.

Milan 2Milan 3

The afternoon was dedicated to visit the Wastewater Treatment Plant of Milano Nosedo, the biggest treatment plant in Milan that collects 50% of urban wastewater from the city.

Second day “Epidemiology (key topics: pharmaco-epidemiology, sewage epidemiology)”

The second day activity was focused on epidemiology and particularly on wastewater-based epidemiology and five lectures were given. Ettore Zuccato (Mario Negri Institute) described the sewage epidemiology approach including potentials, limitations and new applications. Caleb Banta-Green (University of Washington) presented how wastewater testing can be used for drug epidemiology and public health interventions and Sara Castiglioni (Mario Negri Institute) gave an overview of the applications of sewage epidemiology to estimate drug consumption in different communitiespublished so far. Malcolm Reid (Norvegian Institute of Water Research) showed a new application of wastewater-based epidemiology to monitor alcohol consumption in a community and Renzo Bagnati (Mario Negri Institute) how steroids in wastewater can be used as markers of abuse.

Group Activity. The activity consisted in an exercise to estimate the use of a substance in different case studies including specific evaluation of sampling, pharmacokinetic profile of the substance and back-calculation of consumption. Each group voted a rapporteur and the results were shared in a final common presentation and discussion.

Cocaine consumption during Street Parade 2014

Sewage-based epidemiology reveals that cocaine consumption during the mega event with 950’000 party goers at Street Parade in Zurich did not differ substantially from a weekend during a normal week.

Watch the short news report broadcasted during prime time at Swiss Television on Friday 8th of August (in Swiss German) or assess the graphs.

EMCDDA Scientific Paper Award 2013: Two SEWPROF members among co-authors of a short-listed paper

Malcolm Reid and Kevin Thomas co-authored a paper which was short-listed for the annual EMCDDA best paper award 

Malcolm J Reid, Katherine H Langford, Merete Grung, Hallvard Gjerde, Ellen J Amundsen, Jorg Morland, Kevin V Thomas, ‘Estimation of cocaine consumption in the community: a critical comparison of the results from three complimentary techniques’ in BMJ Open 2012;2:e001637

Special Issue on wastewater-based epidemiology published in Science of the Total Environment


A Special Issue on wastewater-based epidemiology entitled ‘Testing the waters: A selection of papers from the first international multidisciplinary conference on detecting illicit drugs in wastewater’ was published in  Science of the Total Environment.

Science of The Total Environment
Volume 487, Pages 611-745 (15 July 2014)


Testing the Waters 2015 Conference on wastewater-based drug epidemiology – announcement

It is with great pleasure that we announce the upcoming conference Testing the Waters 2015 on wastewater-based drug epidemiology. Please find attached the call for abstracts and additional information. This includes a tentative programme and a detailed description of the five themes. Besides keynotes and plenary presentations, a poster session (with flash presentations) and workshops will provide ample opportunity for intensive exchange and discussions on this trans-disciplinary research field and application thereof. Monte Verità (Ascona, Switzerland) above Lago Maggiore is a conference centre and hotel. It is our aim to accommodate as many participants as possible on site this beautiful location (see details that will be available at a later stage on the conference website).

Testing the Waters 2015 – announcement

Testing the Waters 2015 – additional information

Date:   11-15 October 2015

Deadline for abstracts:   24 April 2015

Venue:   Monte Verità (Ascona, Switzerland)

Supported by:   Congressi Stefano Franscini (ETH Zurich), SCORE (COST Action  ES1307), SEWPROF (EU Marie Curie ITN), EMCDDA, and Eawag.

Further information:   www.testingthewaters2015.ch

Contact:   testingthewaters2015@demariaevent.ch

SEWPROF ITN meets again, this time in Nieuwegein, The Netherlands

Picture: P. de Voogt

Utrecht2Picture: P. de Voogt

Last April the members of SEWPROF met again, this time in the small village of Nieuwegein, the home base of KWR Watercycle Research Institute in the middle of The Netherlands. On the 9th of April, the half yearly board meeting was held (see pictures). On April 10th and 11th the third training course was held. The meeting started by morning sessions with brief updates from all ESRs and ERs. The rest of the programme focused on mass spectrometric detection techniques on the first day, whereas the second day was dedicated to biological aspects including biosensing, PCR and toxicology of illicit drugs, starring some very interesting guest speakers

The aspect of team building was not forgotten. While enjoying some rather unusual (for The Netherlands) nice weather that allowed walking outdoors, excursions were made to:

Drinking Water Treatment Plant of Waternet   (picture: E. Emke)

Drinking Water Treatment Plant of Waternet (picture: E. Emke)

1) The drinking water treatment plant of Waternet, that uses surface water from the river Rhine. The use of automated biosentinels was demonstrated that continuously monitor the quality of the inlet water using daphnids and algae.2) The main locks of the Amsterdam-Rhine canal and the old centre of the former village of Vreeswijk with its pound locks, where a typical Dutch pannenkoeken lunch was enjoyed.

Marie Mardal, the ESR Representative said: ‘It was interesting, as always, to hear how the work of the other research groups was coming along, and share and discuss obstacles and successes. When we have such different angles on the project, these training courses are crucial to ensure we use everyone’s expertise optimal and support each other in making good, scientific decisions leading to excellent research. The speakers gave some very interesting talks on subjects relevant to the field of sewage profiling, but also background knowledge in other scientific fields, that we could use in our research.’

SEWPROF researchers (picture: E. Emke)

SEWPROF researchers (picture: E. Emke)

SEWPROF ITN kick-off meeting, December 2012

The network had its kick-off meeting in Lisbon in December. The event was hosted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and laid the foundations for a stimulating, productive and innovative research and training programme within the societally-critical area of sewage epidemiology.

Kick_off meeting_v2

Photo form the Lisbon kick-off meeting, December 2012.

Testing the waters: first international multidisciplinary conference on detecting illicit drugs in wastewater

Upcoming conference:

Testing the waters: first international multidisciplinary conference on detecting illicit drugs in wastewater organised by EMCDDA in collaboration with SEWPROF

06–08 May 2013

Chair: Paul Griffiths, EMCDDA Co-chaired by: Kevin Thomas, Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Oslo, Norway Sara Castiglioni, Mario Negri Institute, Milan, Italy Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern (SEWPROF-coordinator) in collaboration with the SEWPROF– project

The  conference will review the ‘state of the art’ in this emerging  discipline, providing an opportunity to present latest research  findings, methodological developments and new applications.  This  multidisciplinary event will bring together for the first time  international experts working in relevant fields which include: drug  epidemiology, pharmacokinetics, statistics, forensic science,   analytical chemistry and environmental engineering.

The deadline  for abstracts for oral presentations and posters is 15 March 2013.

The deadline for registration is 2 April 2013.

The Conference is free to attend but places are limited.