VIRUSES IN WATER AND WASTEWATER AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE TO PUBLIC HEALTH

Event Date/Time: 
December 7, 2018 - 1:00pm
Event Location: 
A10 Engineering Research Complex
Speaker: 
Evan Patrick O’Brien
Ph.D. Dissertation Defense

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense

 

Friday, December 7, 2018 @ 1:00 p.m.

A10 Engineering Research Complex

 

VIRUSES IN WATER AND WASTEWATER AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE TO PUBLIC HEALTH

 

by

Evan Patrick O’Brien

Advisor:  Dr. Irene Xagoraraki

 

Abstract:

            Viruses are responsible for millions of disease cases and deaths each year worldwide. Water-related viruses are of particular concern to environmental engineers, especially with regards to wastewater. Wastewater can be a valuable tool in the investigation of viral disease. This dissertation seeks to study the presence, quantification, and diversity of viruses in wastewater in the application of various methodologies for the protection of human, animal, and environmental health.

           

The first study proposes a One-Health approach for the identification and prevention of water-related viral disease outbreaks. One-Health posits that human, animal, and environmental health are all innately interrelated. The proposed methodology is a three-step approach that calls for the identification of critical water-related exposure pathways for viruses, the design of surveillance systems to observe these pathways, and the implementation of interventions to block viral transmission along these pathways. The second study is an application of the proposed approach in the state of Michigan. The goal of this study was to identify factors that are predictive of viral disease. The identification of these critical factors can inform public health officials on the most effective ways of preventing future viral disease outbreaks.

           

The third study proposes a methodology for the use of wastewater as an epidemiological tool to predict and identify viral disease outbreaks. Wastewater can be considered a cumulative sample of the serviced population, and quantifying the concentration of a particular virus in wastewater indicates the number of disease cases in the serviced community. Important considerations, such as population normalization, shedding rates, and correlation with clinical data are discussed. Application of this methodology has the potential to identify outbreaks before disease cases are clinically reported.

           

 

The fourth study investigates viral diversity and abundance in wastewater and surface water from Kampala, Uganda. Samples were taken at the influent and effluent of a wastewater treatment plant, as well as surrounding surface waters. Four human viruses were quantified using qPCR, and next-generation sequencing was performed to assess viral diversity. It was found that wastewater effluent had an impact on surrounding surface waters, and that there were temporal fluctuations in the concentrations of human viruses, indicating the potential for wastewater to be used as an epidemiological tool.

 

The fifth study investigated different wastewater treatment barriers and their effects on wastewater effluent, which can impact environmental health upon release. This study analyzed viral diversity of wastewater effluent samples from membrane bioreactor treatment plants in Michigan and France. Diversity analysis indicated Herpesvirales was the most abundant order of potentially pathogenic human DNA viruses in all utilities, and other potentially pathogenic human viruses detected include Adenoviridae, Parvoviridae, and Polyomaviridae. The choice of treatment process (MBR versus activated sludge) had no measurable impact on effluent DNA viral diversity, while the type of disinfection had an impact on the viral diversity present in the effluent.  

 

In summary, these studies illustrate the importance of water and wastewater as a critical reservoir for viral disease. Treatment of these water resources is a vital responsibility of environmental engineers. Moreover, water and wastewater surveillance can prove a valuable tool in the early detection of viral outbreaks protection of public health.