Human viral pathogens are pervasive in wastewater treatment center aerosols

J Environ Sci (China). 2018 May;67:45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jes.2017.07.015. Epub 2017 Jul 29.


Wastewater treatment center (WTC) workers may be vulnerable to diseases caused by viruses, such as the common cold, influenza and gastro-intestinal infections. Although there is a substantial body of literature characterizing the microbial community found in wastewater, only a few studies have characterized the viral component of WTC aerosols, despite the fact that most diseases affecting WTC workers are of viral origin and that some of these viruses are transmitted through the air. In this study, we evaluated in four WTCs the presence of 11 viral pathogens of particular concern in this milieu and used a metagenomic approach to characterize the total viral community in the air of one of those WTCs. The presence of viruses in aerosols in different locations of individual WTCs was evaluated and the results obtained with four commonly used air samplers were compared. We detected four of the eleven viruses tested, including human adenovirus (hAdV), rotavirus, hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Herpes Simplex virus type 1 (HSV1). The results of the metagenomic assay uncovered very few viral RNA sequences in WTC aerosols, however sequences from human DNA viruses were in much greater relative abundance.

Keywords: Air sampling; Airborne viruses; Viral metagenomics; Wastewater treatment plants.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis*
  • Air Microbiology*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Humans
  • Viruses*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid*
  • Waste Water / virology*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants
  • Waste Water