Mimicking filtration and transport of rotavirus and adenovirus in sand media using DNA-labeled, protein-coated silica nanoparticles

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Water Research

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University of Cape Town

Abstract Rotavirus (RoV) and adenovirus (AdV) are important viral pathogens for the risk analysis of drinking water. Despite this, little is known about their retention and transport behaviors in porous media due to a lack of representative surrogates. We developed RoV and AdV surrogates by covalently coupling 70-nm sized silica nanoparticles with specific proteins and a DNA marker for sensitive detection. Filtration experiments using beach sand columns demonstrated the similarity of the surrogates' concentrations, filtration efficiencies and attachment kinetics to those of the target viruses. The surrogates showed the same magnitude of concentration reduction as the viruses. Conversely, MS2 phage (a traditional virus model) over-predicted concentrations of AdV and RoV by 1- and 2-orders of magnitude respectively. The surrogates remained stable in size, surface charge and DNA concentration for at least one year. They can be easily and rapidly detected down to a single particle. Preliminary tests suggest that they were readily detectable in a number of environmental waters and treated effluent. With up-scaling validation in pilot trials, the surrogates developed here could be a cost-effective new tool for studying virus retention and transport in porous media. Examples include assessing filter efficacy in water and wastewater treatment, tracking virus migration in groundwater after effluent land disposal, and establishing safe setback distances for groundwater protection.