International Microbiology, Vol 1, No 3 (1998)

Human enteric viruses in the water environment: a minireview

Albert Bosch


Water virology started around half a century ago, with scientists attempting to detect poliovirus in water samples. Since that time, other enteric viruses responsible for gastroenteritis and hepatitis, among a great variety of virus strains, have replaced enteroviruses as the main target for detection in the water environment. Technical molecular developments, polymerase-chain reaction (PCR) amplification being the method of choice, enable the detection of fastidious health-significant viruses. However, shortcomings of molecular procedures include their potential incompatibility with concentration methods, indispensable to reduce the water sample volume to assay for viruses, and the inability to discern between infectious and non infectious material. On the other hand, these procedures are restrained to sophisticated laboratories and detection of alternative indicator organisms has been proposed. Bacterial indicators fail to give a reliable clue of the virological quality of water. Selected bacteriophage groups appear as a better choice for their use as virus indicators.

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