Tracking enteric viruses in green vegetables from central Argentina: potential association with viral contamination of irrigation waters

Sci Total Environ. 2018 Oct 1;637-638:665-671. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.044. Epub 2018 May 11.


Consumption of green vegetable products is commonly viewed as a potential risk factor for infection with enteric viruses. The link between vegetable crops and fecally contaminated irrigation water establishes an environmental scenario that can result in a risk to human health. The aim of this work was to analyze the enteric viral quality in leafy green vegetables from Córdoba (Argentina) and its potential association with viral contamination of irrigation waters. During July-December 2012, vegetables were collected from peri-urban green farms (n = 19) and its corresponding urban river irrigation waters (n = 12). Also, urban sewage samples (n = 6) were collected to analyze the viral variants circulating in the community. Viruses were eluted and concentrated by polyethylene glycol precipitation and then were subject to Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction to assess the genome presence of norovirus, rotavirus and human astrovirus. The concentrates were also inoculated in HEp-2 (Human Epidermoid carcinoma strain #2) cells to monitor the occurrence of infective enterovirus. The frequency of detection of the viral groups in sewage, irrigation water and crops was: norovirus 100%, 67% and 58%, rotavirus 100%, 75% and 5%, astrovirus 83%, 75% and 32% and infective enterovirus 50%, 33% and 79%, respectively. A similar profile in sewage, irrigation water and green vegetables was observed for norovirus genogroups (I and II) distribution as well as for rotavirus and astrovirus G-types. These results provide the first data for Argentina pointing out that green leafy vegetables are contaminated with a broad range of enteric viruses and that the irrigation water would be a source of contamination. The presence of viral genomes and infective particles in food that in general suffer minimal treatment before consumption underlines that green crops can act as potential sources of enteric virus transmission. Public intervention in the use of the river waters as irrigation source is needed.

Keywords: Astrovirus; Enterovirus; Food−borne viruses; Norovirus; Rotavirus; Sewage.

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Irrigation / methods*
  • Argentina
  • Enterovirus / growth & development*
  • Enterovirus / isolation & purification
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Norovirus
  • Vegetables / virology*
  • Viruses
  • Wastewater / virology


  • Waste Water