Moresco V, Charatzidou A, Oliver DM, Weidmann M, Matallana-Surget S & Quilliam RS (2022) Binding, recovery, and infectiousness of enveloped and non-enveloped viruses associated with plastic pollution in surface water. Environmental Pollution, 308, Art. No.: 119594. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2022.119594
Microplastics in wastewater and surface water rapidly become colonised by microbial biofilm. Such ‘plastisphere’ communities are hypothesised to persist longer and be disseminated further in the environment and may act as a vector for human pathogens, particularly as microplastics entering wastewater treatment plants are exposed to high concentrations of pathogenic bacteria. The potential for human viral pathogens to become associated with the plastisphere has never before been quantified. Here, we have used rotavirus (RV) SA11 (a non-enveloped enteric virus) and the enveloped bacteriophage Phi6 as model viruses to quantify binding and recovery from biofilm-colonised microplastic pellets in three different water treatments (filtered and non-filtered surface water, and surface water with added nutrients). Viruses associated with biofilm-colonised pellets were more stable compared to those remaining in the water. While detection of infectious particles and genome copies of RV remained stable over the 48 h sampling period, Phi6 stability was highly impacted, with reduction values ranging from 2.18 to 3.94 log10. Virus particles were protected against inactivation factors when associated with the biofilm colonising microplastic surfaces, and when there was a high concentration of particulate matter in the liquid phase. Although our results suggest that the presence of an envelope may impair virus interaction with the plastisphere, the ability to recover both enveloped and non-enveloped infectious viruses from colonised microplastic pellets highlights an additional potential public health risk of surface waters becoming contaminated with microplastics, and subsequent human exposure to microplastics in the environment.
Biofilm; Enteric virus; Environmental virology; Microplastics; Plastisphere; Wastewater
Environmental Pollution: Volume 308