IWA Publishing
IWA Publishing

Viruses in the environment – presence and diversity of bacteriophage and enteric virus populations in the Umhlangane River, Durban, South Africa

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Due to the continued persistence of waterborne viral-associated infections, the presence of enteric viruses is a concern. Notwithstanding the health implications, viral diversity and abundance is an indicator of water quality declination in the environment. The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of viruses (bacteriophage and enteric viruses) in a highly polluted, anthropogenic-influenced river system over a 6-month period at five sampling points. Cytopathic-based tissue culture assays revealed that the isolated viruses were infectious when tested on Hep-G2, HEK293 and Vero cells. While transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed that the majority of the viruses were bacteriophages, a number of presumptive enteric virus families were visualized, some of which include Picornaviridae, Adenoviridae, Polyomaviridae and Reoviridae. Finally, primer specific nested polymerase chain reaction (nested-PCR)/reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) coupled with BLAST analysis identified human adenovirus, polyomavirus and hepatitis A and C virus genomes in river water samples. Taken together, the complexity of both bacteriophage and enteric virus populations in the river has potential health implications. Finally, a systematic integrated risk assessment and management plan to identify and minimize sources of faecal contamination is the most effective way of ensuring water safety and should be established in all future guidelines.

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