Biofilms colonizing pipe surfaces of drinking water distribution systems could provide habitat and shelter for pathogenic viruses present in the water phase. This study aims (i) to develop a method to detect viral particles present in a drinking water biofilm and (ii) to study viral interactions with drinking water biofilms. A pilot scale system was used to develop drinking water biofilms on 3 materials (7 cm2 discs): PVC, cast iron and cement. Biofilms were inoculated with viral model including MS2, PhiX174 or adenovirus. Five techniques were tested to recover virus from biofilms. The most efficient uses beef extract and glycine at pH = 9. After sonication and centrifugation, the pH of the supernatant is neutralized prior to viral analysis. The calculated recovery rates varied from 29.3 to 74.6% depending on the virus (MS2 or PhiX174) and the material. Applying this protocol, the interactions of virus models (MS2 and adenovirus) with drinking water biofilms were compared. Our results show that adsorption of viruses to biofilms depends on their isoelectric points, the disc material and the hydrodynamic conditions. Applying hydrodynamic conditions similar to those existing in drinking water networks resulted in a viral adsorption corresponding to less than 1% of the initial viral load.
Keywords: bacteriophages, culture, drinking water biofilm, enteric virus, molecular biology, pilot scale study