Hessen hosts pioneering GLOWACON 2023 to foster global health through wastewater monitoring

At a landmark conference in Hessen, over 300 experts convened to establish a crucial consortium to advance a global pandemic early warning system.

© Drew Hays

Experts from around the world converged on Frankfurt am Main in November for the Global Wastewater Surveillance System for Public Health Conference (GLOWACON) 2023. Hosted by Hessen Trade and Invest GmbH, nearly 300 professionals from science, politics, and industry gathered for the groundbreaking conference, underscoring Hessen's role as a frontrunner in public health and environmental initiatives.

The conference was organized in collaboration with the European Commission's Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA), the EU Commission's Joint Research Center, the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its core aim was establishing an international consortium to advance a global pandemic early warning system based on wastewater monitoring. The consortium is a crucial step toward developing a system that can identify sources of infection before they become global health crises.

GLOWACON 2023 marked a significant stride in wastewater surveillance. The event started with a meeting at the Frankfurt Airport to highlight the significance of airports in both the global economy and global health crises. While airports are essential hubs for international travel and trade, they also pose the risk of allowing diseases to spread rapidly worldwide when infected people travel.

While focusing broadly on the early warning system, GLOWACON 2023 brought together diverse perspectives on epidemic research and covered specific measures for monitoring wastewater and the environment. Topics included Polio, Influenza A and B, and COVID-19, which are just some of the pathogens that scientists can detect through wastewater analysis. Participants also discussed wastewater monitoring at key locations, data protection, and opportunities and challenges in developing countries.

The conference made it clear that multisectoral and international collaboration between scientists, lawmakers, and business leaders is crucial to establishing wastewater monitoring as an effective tool to combat health hazards.

The official launch of the consortium is planned for early 2024. The next meeting is scheduled for May 18-24, 2024, at the World Water Forum in Indonesia.

The State of Hessen also hosted the previous conference in 2021: "Wastewater-based Epidemiology – Polio, Pest, and Pandemic".