Current fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and emerging microbial source tracking (MST) methods may indicate the presence and even the likely source of water contamination, but they are less effective at determining the potential risk to health from human enteric viruses. This paper investigates the presence of human-specific phages (detected using a low-cost MST method) in municipal wastewaters (MW) and assesses whether they may be used effectively to screen for the likely presence of human adenovirus (HAdV) and norovirus (NoV). The findings demonstrated that all samples positive for HAdV and/or NoV also contained phages infecting Bacteroides GB-124 (mean = 4.36 log10 PFU/100 mL) and that GB-124 phages, HAdV, and NoV were absent from samples of nonhuman origin. HAdV and NoV were detected more frequently in MW samples containing higher levels of phages (e.g., >102) and FIB (e.g., >103). Interestingly, at one sewage treatment works (STW), the levels of GB-124 phages present in treated MW were not significantly lower (p = 0.001) than those in untreated MW. There was a positive correlation (R = 0.42) between the size of STW and the number of GB-124 phages present in the final treated effluent. Therefore, the detection of GB-124 phages by a simple phage-lysis method may have considerable potential as a low-cost surrogate for the detection of certain human pathogenic viruses in MW and receiving waters.
Ebdon, J., Sellwood, J., Shore, J., & Taylor, H. (2012). Phages of Bacteroides (GB-124): a novel tool for viral waterborne disease control? Environmental Science and Technology, 46(2), 1163-1169. https://doi.org/10.1021/es202874p