• adenovirus;
  • coliphage;
  • enterovirus;
  • groundwater;
  • norovirus;
  • stability


Aim:  To investigate the potential health hazard from infectious viruses where coliphages, or viruses by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), have been detected in groundwater. Two aspects were investigated: the relationship between infectivity and detection by PCR and the stability of coliphage compared to human viruses.

Methods and Results:  Virus decay (1 year) and detection (2 years) studies were undertaken on groundwater at 12°C. The order of virus stability from most to least stable in groundwater, based on first-order inactivation, was: coliphage ΦX174 (0·5 d−1) > adenovirus 2 > coliphage PRD1 > poliovirus 3 > coxsackie virus B1 (0·13 d−1). The order for PCR results was: norovirus genotype II > adenovirus > norovirus genotype I > enterovirus.

Conclusions:  Enterovirus and adenovirus detection by PCR and the duration of infectivity in groundwater followed similar trends over the time period studied. Adenovirus might be a better method for assessing groundwater contamination than using enterovirus; norovirus detection would provide information on a significant human health hazard. Bacteriophage is a good alternative indicator.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  PCR is a useful tool for identifying the health hazard from faecal contamination in groundwater where conditions are conducive to the survival of viruses and their nucleic acid.