One-year Surveillance of Human Enteric Viruses in Raw and Treated Wastewaters, Downstream River Waters, and Drinking Waters

M. Iaconelli, M. Muscillo, S. Della Libera, M. Fratini, L. Meucci, M. De Ceglia, D. Giacosa, G. La Rosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human enteric viruses are a major cause of waterborne diseases, and can be transmitted by contaminated water of all kinds, including drinking and recreational water. The objectives of the present study were to assess the occurrence of enteric viruses (enterovirus, norovirus, adenovirus, hepatitis A and E virus) in raw and treated wastewaters, in rivers receiving wastewater discharges, and in drinking waters. Wastewater treatment plants’ (WWTP) pathogen removal efficiencies by adenovirus quantitative real-time PCR and the presence of infectious enterovirus, by cell culture assays, in treated wastewaters and in surface waters were also evaluated. A total of 90 water samples were collected: raw and treated wastewaters (treated effluents and ultrafiltered water reused for industrial purposes), water from two rivers receiving treated discharges, and drinking water. Nested PCR assays were used for the identification of viral DNA/RNA, followed by direct amplicon sequencing. All raw sewage samples (21/21), 61.9 % of treated wastewater samples (13/21), and 25 % of ultrafiltered water samples (3/12) were contaminated with at least one viral family. Multiple virus families and genera were frequently detected. Mean positive PCRs per sample decreased significantly from raw to treated sewage and to ultrafiltered waters. Moreover, quantitative adenovirus data showed a reduction in excess of 99 % in viral genome copies following wastewater treatment. In surface waters, 78.6 % (22/28) of samples tested positive for one or more viruses by molecular methods, but enterovirus-specific infectivity assays did not reveal infectious particles in these samples. All drinking water samples tested negative for all viruses, demonstrating the effectiveness of treatment in removing viral pathogens from drinking water. Integrated strategies to manage water from all sources are crucial to ensure water quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-88
Number of pages10
JournalFood and Environmental Virology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Enteric viruses
  • PCR
  • Real-time PCR
  • Sequencing
  • Water environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Food Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Virology


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