Department of Health

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

10/02/22
Suzie Sarkis, Rachael Poon and Dr, Monica Nolan holding a Victorian Water Awards trophy
Pictured from left: Suzie Sarkis, Rachel Poon and Monica Nolan

Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day to celebrate women leaders and role models in science. The Department of Health spotlights the award-winning team of Sarkis, Nolan and Poon, whose work in the field of adaptive wastewater surveillance has placed Victoria at the forefront of wastewater surveillance intelligence worldwide. 

In early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began, Victorian Department of Health Water Unit Manager, Suzie Sarkis, and Karen Rouse, CEO Water Research Australia, saw the potential to use wastewater surveillance to provide early warning of undiagnosed cases of SARSCoV2 (COVID-19) in localised areas. This insight led to the initiation of the ColoSSoS Project: Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARSCoV2. 

The Victorian wastewater surveillance program lead by Rachael Poon (microbiologist) and Dr Monica Nolan (medical epidemiologist) undertook ground-breaking work that enabled public health responders in Victoria, and around the world, to take timely public health action as part of the COVID-19 response.  

Now in its third year, the program continues to have valuable applications in settings with vulnerable populations and potential for rapid spread, including aged care, social housing, schools and prisons, and in identifying the emergence of new Variants of Concern. Looking ahead, the team will continue to collaborate on further innovations that have relevance for COVID, other infectious diseases, climate change, antimicrobial resistance and beyond.  

Learn more about wastewater testing – what it means and the results it is producing in Victoria in real time at Wastewater testing.

Read more about the team behind the wastewater program.

Reviewed 11 February 2022

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