The SARA project is making progress! Method harmonisation, training of African partners, ongoing monitoring, and stakeholder forum meeting

9 March, 2023

The SARA project determines the prevalence of pathogenic viruses (including SARS-CoV-2), microbial indicators, antibiotic resistance and microbial source tracking markers in wastewater, surface water, and coastal seawater. In the project, culture and molecular methods are applied to monitor the different model areas. To ensure comparability of results, these procedures were harmonised in the first phase of the project. Following the successful harmonisation of methods, the European partners helped to install the laboratory equipment in the African partner laboratories. Extensive training was provided to laboratory staff from Uganda in Germany and to laboratory staff from Mozambique in Portugal. Further training courses were held in Africa.


An initial screening for antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) was carried out and key ARGs for the intensive monitoring were identified. Subsequent the successful harmonisation of methods and selection of key ARGs, sampling campaigns started at the different model sites in May 2022.  Since then, samples have been taken regularly and analysed using the harmonised methods. The campaigns and analyses of the samples collected are currently underway. In the next phase of the project, the spread of viruses, antibiotic resistant bacteria, ARGs and MST markers from wastewater, wastewater treatment plant effluent, streams and rivers to the sea will be evaluated in relation to climatic conditions and extreme events. This will be followed by a cross-sectoral risk assessment including FIB, coliphages, pathogenic viruses (including SARS-CoV-2), antibiotic resistant bacteria and ARGs.


A key aspect of the SARA project is the dissemination of its results. During the application process, a Stakeholder Forum was set up, consisting of international health and environmental organisations, European associations of water companies, local waterworks and authorities. A first meeting of the Stakeholder Forum took place June 2022. During this meeting, the study concept and the results of the method harmonisation and initial screening for antibiotic resistance genes were presented.


Sampling campaign in Uganda (Photo credit: Arthur Leon, TZW)