Persistence of Ebola virus in sterilized wastewater

In the wake of the ongoing 2014/2015 Ebola virus outbreak, significant questions regarding the appropriate handling of Ebola virus-contaminated liquid waste remain, including the persistence of Ebola virus in wastewater. To address these uncertainties, we evaluated the persistence of Ebola virus spiked in sterilized domestic sewage. The viral titer decreased approximately 99% within the first test day from an initial viral titer of 106 TCID50 mL–1; however, it could not be determined if this initial rapid decrease was due to aggregation or inactivation of the viral particles. The subsequent viral titer decrease was less rapid, and infectious Ebola virus particles persisted for all 8 days of the test. The inactivation constant (k) was determined to be −1.08 (2.1 days for a 90% viral titer decrease). Due to experimental conditions, we believe these results to be an upper bound for Ebola virus persistence in wastewater. Wastewater composition is inherently heterogeneous; subsequently, we caution that interpretation of these results should be made within a holistic assessment, including the effects of wastewater composition, dilution, and potential exposure routes within wastewater infrastructure. While it remains unknown if Ebola virus may be transmitted via wastewater, these data demonstrate a potential exposure route to infectious Ebola virus via wastewater and emphasize the value of a precautionary approach to wastewater handling in an epidemic response.

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