Development of a method for detection of human rotavirus in water and sewage

E. M. Smith, C. P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The simian rotavirus SA11 was used to develop a simple, reliable, and efficient method to concentrate rotavirus from tap water, treated sewage, and raw sewage by absorption to and elution from Filterite fiberglass-epoxy filters. SA11 adsorbed optimally to Filterite filters from water containing 0.5 mM AlCl3 at pH 3.5. Filterbound virus was eluted with 0.05 M glycine-NaOH supplemented with 10% tryptose phosphate broth at pH 10. SA11 was quantitated by plaque assay, whereas human rotavirus was detected by immunofluorescence. The method was applied to detect rotavirus in raw and treated sewage at two Houston, Tex., sewage treatment plants. The sewage isolates were identified as rotavirus, probably a human strain, based on several criteria. The sewage isolates were detectable by an immunofluorescence test, using anti-SA11 serum which would detect the simian, human, bovine, and porcine rotaviruses. No reaction was noted by immunofluorescence with the reoviruses or several common enteroviruses. The sewage isolates were neutralized by convalescent sera from a human adult and infant who had been infected by rotavirus as well as by a hyperimmune serum prepared in guinea pigs against purified human rotavirus. Preimmune or preillness sera did not react with the isolates by neutralization or immunofluorescence. The natural isolates were sensitive to pH 11 and other inactivating agents, similar to SA11. The buoyant density of the sewage isolates in CsCl gradients was 1.36 g/cm3, which is the value usually reported for complete, infectious rotavirus particles. The double-shelled particle diameter was 67.1 ± 2.4 nm. Finally, electron micrographs of cell lysates inoculated with the sewage isolate showed particles displaying characteristic rotavirus morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1440-1450
Number of pages11
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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