Detection of enteroviruses in untreated and treated drinking water supplies in South Africa

Water Res. 2005 Jun;39(11):2253-8. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2005.04.014.


Enteric viruses have been detected in many drinking water supplies all over the world. A meaningful number of these supplies were treated and disinfected according to internationally acceptable methods. In addition, counts of bacterial indicators (coliform bacteria and heterotrophic plate count organisms) in these water supplies were within limits generally recommended for treated drinking water and these findings have been supported by epidemiological data on infections associated with drinking water. The shortcomings of conventional treatment methods and indicator organisms to confirm the absence of enteric viruses from drinking water, was generally ascribed to the exceptional resistance of these viruses. In this study, the prevalence of enteroviruses detected from July 2000 to June 2002 in sewage, river-, borehole-, spring- and dam water as well as drinking water supplies treated and disinfected according to international specifications for the production of safe drinking water was analysed. A glass wool adsorption-elution technique was used to recover viruses from 10--20 l of sewage as well as environmental water samples, in the case of drinking water from more than 100 l. Recovered enteroviruses were inoculated onto two cell culture types (BGM and PLC/PRF/5 cells) for amplification of viral RNA with nested-PCR being used to detect the amplified viral RNA. Results from the study demonstrated the presence of enteroviruses in 42.5% of sewage and in 18.7% of treated drinking water samples. Furthermore, enteroviruses were detected in 28.5% of river water, in 26.7% of dam/spring water and in 25.3% of borehole water samples. The high prevalence of coxsackie B viruses found in this study suggested, that a potential health risk and a burden of disease constituted by these viruses might be meaningful. These findings indicated that strategies, other than end-point analysis of treated and disinfected drinking water supplies, may be required to ensure the production of drinking water that does not exceed acceptable health risks. More reliable approaches to ensure acceptable safety of drinking water supplies may be based on control by multiple-barrier principles from catchment to tap using hazard assessment and critical control point (HACCP) principles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Enterovirus / isolation & purification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • South Africa
  • Water Microbiology / standards*
  • Water Supply*