Comparison of bacteriophage and enteric virus removal in pilot scale activated sludge plants

J Appl Microbiol. 2005;98(2):516-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2004.02485.x.


Aims: The aim of this experimental study was to determine comparatively the removal of two types of bacteriophages, a somatic coliphage and an F-specific RNA phage and of three types of enteric viruses, hepatitis A virus (HAV), poliovirus and rotavirus during sewage treatment by activated sludge using laboratory pilot plants.

Methods and results: The cultivable simian rotavirus SA11, the HAV HM 175/18f cytopathic strain and poliovirus were quantified by cell culture. The bacteriophages were quantified by plaque formation on the host bacterium in agar medium. In each experiment, two pilots simulating full-scale activated sludge plants were inoculated with viruses at known concentrations, and mixed liquor and effluent samples were analysed regularly. In the mixed liquor, liquid and solid fractions were analysed separately. The viral behaviour in both the liquid and solid phases was similar between pilots of each experiment. Viral concentrations decreased rapidly following viral injection in the pilots. Ten minutes after the injections, viral concentrations in the liquid phase had decreased from 1.0 +/- 0.4 log to 2.2 +/- 0.3 log. Poliovirus and HAV were predominantly adsorbed on the solid matters of the mixed liquor while rotavirus was not detectable in the solid phase. In our model, the estimated mean log viral reductions after 3-day experiment were 9.2 +/- 0.4 for rotavirus, 6.6 +/- 2.4 for poliovirus, 5.9 +/- 3.5 for HAV, 3.2 +/- 1.2 for MS2 and 2.3 +/- 0.5 for PhiX174.

Significance and impact of the study: This study demonstrates that the pilots are useful models to assess the removal of infectious enteric viruses and bacteriophages by activated sludge treatment. Our results show the efficacy of the activated sludge treatment on the five viruses and suggest that coliphages could be an acceptable indicator of viral removal in this treatment system.

MeSH terms

  • Coliphages
  • Hepatitis A virus
  • Industrial Microbiology*
  • Levivirus
  • Pilot Projects
  • Poliovirus
  • Rotavirus
  • Sewage*
  • Time Factors
  • Virus Inactivation*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid*
  • Water Purification*


  • Sewage