Uptake without inactivation of human adenovirus type 2 by Tetrahymena pyriformis ciliates

Environ Sci Process Impacts. 2023 Jul 19;25(7):1181-1192. doi: 10.1039/d3em00116d.


Human adenoviruses are ubiquitous contaminants of surface water. Indigenous protists may interact with adenoviruses and contribute to their removal from the water column, though the associated kinetics and mechanisms differ between protist species. In this work, we investigated the interaction of human adenovirus type 2 (HAdV2) with the ciliate Tetrahymena pyriformis. In co-incubation experiments in a freshwater matrix, T. pyriformis was found to efficiently remove HAdV2 from the aqueous phase, with ≥4 log10 removal over 72 hours. Neither sorption onto the ciliate nor secreted compounds contributed to the observed loss of infectious HAdV2. Instead, internalization was shown to be the dominant removal mechanism, resulting in the presence of viral particles inside food vacuoles of T. pyriformis, as visualized by transmission electron microscopy. The fate of HAdV2 once ingested was scrutinized and no evidence of virus digestion was found over the course of 48 hours. This work shows that T. pyriformis can exert a dual role in microbial water quality: while they remove infectious adenovirus from the water column, they can also accumulate infectious viruses.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae
  • Adenoviruses, Human*
  • Fresh Water
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Tetrahymena pyriformis* / physiology