Norovirus (NV) is a prototype strain of a group of human caliciviruses responsible for epidemic outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis worldwide. Because of the lack of a cell culture system or an animal model for this virus, studies on drinking water treatment such as separation and disinfection processes are still hampered. In the present study, we investigated NV removal performance as particles during a coagulation–ceramic microfiltration (MF) process by using recombinant NV virus-like particles (rNV-VLPs), which are morphologically and antigenically similar to native NV. We also experimentally investigated the behaviors of two widely accepted surrogates for pathogenic waterborne viruses, bacteriophages Qβ and MS2, for comparison with the behavior of rNV-VLPs. More than 4-log removal was observed for rNV-VLPs with a 1.08 mg-Al/L dose of polyaluminium chloride in the coagulation–ceramic MF process. This high removal ratio of rNV-VLPs satisfies the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirement of 4-log removal or inactivation. In addition, the removal ratios of Qβ and MS2 were approximately 2-log and 1-log, smaller than the ratio of rNV-VLPs. Accordingly, both bacteriophages have the potential to become appropriate surrogates for native NV in the coagulation–ceramic MF process, and, of the two, Qβ is the more conservative surrogate.
Keywords: coagulation–ceramic microfiltration, ELISA, norovirus, real-time RT-PCR, virus-like particles