Assessment of recommended approaches for containment and safe handling of human excreta in emergency settings

Diogo Gomes Da Silva, Edgard Dias, James Ebdon, Huw Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ebola and cholera treatment centres (ETC and CTC) generate considerable quantities of excreta that can further the transmission of disease amongst patients and health workers. Therefore, approaches for the safe handling, containment and removal of excreta within such settings are needed to minimise the likelihood of onward disease transmission. This study compared the performance and suitability of three chlorine-based approaches (0.5% HTH, NaDCC and NaOCl (domestic bleach)) and three lime-based approaches (10%, 20% and 30% Ca(OH)2). The experiments followed recent recommendations for Ebola Treatment Centres. Three excreta matrices containing either raw municipal wastewater, or raw municipal wastewater plus 10% or 20% (w/v) added faecal sludge, were treated in 14 litre buckets at a ratio of 1:10 (chlorine solutions or lime suspensions: excreta matrix). The effects of mixing versus non-mixing and increasing contact time (10 and 30 mins) were also investigated. Bacterial (faecal coliforms (FC) and intestinal enterococci (IE)) and viral (somatic coliphages (SOMPH), F+specific phages (F+PH) and Bacteroides fragilis phages (GB-124PH)) indicators were used to determine the efficacy of each approach. Lime-based approaches provided greater treatment efficacy than chlorine-based approaches, with lime (30% w/v) demonstrating the greatest efficacy (log reductions values, FC = 4.75, IE = 4.16, SOMPH = 2.85, F+PH = 5.13 and GB124PH = 5.41). There was no statistical difference in efficacy between any of the chlorine-based approaches, and the highest log reduction values were: FC = 2.90, IE = 2.36, SOMPH = 3.01, F+PH = 2.36 and GB124PH = 0.74. No statistical difference was observed with respect to contact time for any of the approaches, and no statistical differences were observed with respect to mixing for the chlorine-based approaches. However, statistically significant increases in the efficacy of some lime-based approaches were observed following mixing. These findings provide evidence and practical advice to inform safe handling and containment of excreta and ensure more effective health protection in future emergency settings.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0201344
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Trajano Gomes da Silva et al.
This is an open access article distributed under the
terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License, which permits unrestricted use,
distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original author and source are


  • Sanitation projects
  • Chlorine
  • Hydrated lime
  • Ebola
  • cholera
  • Bacteriophages
  • Bacteria
  • viruses


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