Saturday, 16 May 2020

Removing the novel coronavirus from the water cycle


Scientists know that coronaviruses, including the SARS-CoV-19 virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, can remain infectious for days -- or even longer -- in sewage and drinking water.

Researchers have called for more testing to determine whether water treatment methods are effective in killing SARS-CoV-19 and coronaviruses in general. The virus can be transported in microscopic water droplets, or aerosols, which enter the air through evaporation or spray.

During a 2003 SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, a sewage leak caused a cluster of cases through aerosolization. Though no known cases of COVID-19 have been caused by sewage leaks, the novel coronavirus is closely related to the one that causes SARS, and infection via this route could be possible.

The novel coronavirus could also colonize biofilms that line drinking water systems, making showerheads a possible source of aerosolized transmission. This transmission pathway is thought to be a major source of exposure to the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's disease, for example.

Fortunately, most water treatment routines are thought to kill or remove coronaviruses effectively in both drinking and wastewater. Oxidation with hypochlorous acid or peracetic acid, and inactivation by ultraviolet irradiation, as well as chlorine, are thought to kill coronaviruses. In wastewater treatment plants that use membrane bioreactors, the synergistic effects of beneficial microorganisms and the physical separation of suspended solids filter out viruses concentrated in the sewage sludge.

The researchers suggest upgrading existing water and wastewater treatment infrastructure in outbreak hot spots, which possibly receive coronavirus from places such as hospitals, community clinics, and nursing homes. For example, energy-efficient, light-emitting, diode-based, ultraviolet point-of-use systems could disinfect water before it enters the public treatment system.


Potable water-reuse systems, which purify wastewater back into tap water, also need thorough investigation for coronavirus removal, and possibly new regulatory standards for disinfection.

See:

Vincenzo Naddeo, Haizhou Liu. Editorial Perspectives: 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): what is its fate in urban water cycle and how can the water research community respond? Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, 2020; DOI: 10.1039/d0ew90015j

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (http://www.pharmamicroresources.com/)

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