Comparison of enterovirus and adenovirus concentration and enumeration methods in seawater from Southern California, USA and Baja Malibu, Mexico

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Despite being important etiological agents of waterborne illness, the sources, transport and decay of human viruses in recreational waters are not well understood. This study examines enterovirus and adenovirus concentrations in coastal water samples collected from four beaches impacted by microbial pollution: (1) Malibu Lagoon, Malibu; (2) Tijuana River, Imperial Beach; (3) Baja Malibu, Baja California; and (4) Punta Bandera, Baja California. Water samples were concentrated using a flocculation-based skim milk method and dead-end membrane filtration (MF). Viruses were enumerated using cell culture infectivity assays and reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-QPCR). Across concentration and quantification methods, enteroviruses were detected more often than adenoviruses. For both viruses, MF followed by (RT)QPCR yielded higher concentrations than skim milk flocculation followed by (RT)QPCR or cell culture assays. Samples concentrated by skim milk flocculation and enumerated by (RT)QPCR agreed more closely with concentrations enumerated by cell culture assays than MF followed by (RT)QPCR. The detection of viruses by MF and (RT)QPCR was positively correlated with the presence of infectious viruses. Further research is needed to determine if detection of viruses by rapid methods such as (RT)QPCR can be a useful water quality monitoring tool to assess health risks in recreational waters.

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