Public-private partnership maps COVID cases, variants at international airports

Program snapshot

  • Public-private partnership with CDC and XpresCheck
  • Three complementary approaches of sample collection: voluntary nasal swabbing, aircraft wastewater, and airport wastewater sampling via triturators
  • Sequencing of positive samples to track variants and sub-variants arriving in the U.S.

Notable highlights

  • Monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and over 30 other viruses, bacteria, and antimicrobial resistance targets
  • Sequenced the first confirmed instance of BA.2 and BA.3 sub-variants in the U.S.
  • Filling gaps in global biosurveillance and intelligence collection
  • TGS is a flexible, multimodal platform that plays an important role in U.S. national biosecurity


Participants as of October 2023


Participants per week


International airports in the U.S. including JFK, EWR, SFO, LAX, IAD, SEA, and BOS

Dr. Duncan MacCannell

Chief Science Officer for CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection

“Early detection and sequencing of new variants entering the United States are crucial to our ability to better understand the virus and assess the threat it poses to public health.”
Female Swabs her nose at the airport to test for viruses

Getting ahead of the gathering storm

Biology does not respect borders. When the CDC wanted a “weather map” of COVID cases and variants arriving in the U.S., it partnered with XpresCheck and Concentric to create the first in-airport pathogen monitoring program.

The TGS program has proven to be an agile and beneficial asset to public health officials in the United States—quickly adapting to an evolving pandemic in real time since it launched in 2021.

person stands under an airplane, extracting a sample of the wastewater from the aircraft

An early warning system for incoming biological threats

Since its inception, the program has sequenced more than 14,000 samples and made the genomic data available on several public health platforms to enable further analysis. TGS is able to monitor and change focus as needed to identify priority pathogens.

The TGS program can augment global surveillance systems, especially as testing and sequencing information become limited as COVID-19 monitoring wanes.

Image of the range of Covid-19 variants sequenced for the CDC

Biosecurity is national security

TGS was among the first to detect many new SARS-CoV-2 variants entering the United States up to six weeks before they were reported elsewhere, including Omicron BA2, BA3, XBB, and BA2.86 – demonstrating the program’s valuable ability to detect new variants early.

As the early warning system grows, we’ll be better prepared to respond to biological threats.

Protect the world from harmful biology.