Occurrence of Pepper Mild Mottle Virus (PMMoV) in Groundwater from a Karst Aquifer System in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Gabriela Rosiles-González, Gerardo Ávila-Torres, Oscar A. Moreno-Valenzuela, Gilberto Acosta-González, Rosa María Leal-Bautista, Cinthya D. Grimaldo-Hernández, Judith K. Brown, Cristóbal Chaidez-Quiroz, Walter Q. Betancourt, Charles P. Gerba, Cecilia Hernández-Zepeda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico hosts a karst aquifer system that is the only source of freshwater for the area; however, it is vulnerable to human-mediated contamination. Pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV) is one of the most abundant RNA viruses associated with human feces, making it a viable indicator for tracking fecal pollution in aquatic environments, including groundwater. In this study, groundwater samples collected from a karst aquifer from fresh and brackish water locations were analyzed for fecal indicator bacteria, somatic and male F+ specific coliphages, and PMMoV during the rainy and dry seasons. Total coliform bacteria were detected at all sites, whereas Escherichia coli were found at relatively low levels <40 MPN/100 ml. The highest average concentrations of somatic and male F+ specific coliphages were 920 and 330 plaque forming units per 100 ml, respectively, detected in freshwater during the rainy season. PMMoV RNA was detected in 85% of the samples with gene sequences sharing 99–100% of nucleotide identity with PMMoV sequences available in GenBank. Quantification of PMMoV genome copies (GC) by quantitative real-time PCR indicated concentrations ranging from 1.7 × 101 to 1.0 × 104 GC/L, with the highest number of GC detected during the rainy season. No significant correlation was observed between PMMoV occurrence by season or water type (p > 0.05). Physicochemical and indicator bacteria were not correlated with PMMoV concentrations. The abundance and prevalence of PMMoV in the karst aquifer may reflect its environmental persistence and its potential as a fecal indicator in this karst aquifer system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-497
Number of pages11
JournalFood and Environmental Virology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Fecal indicator
  • Groundwater
  • Karst
  • Pepper mild mottle virus
  • Yucatan Peninsula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Food Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Virology


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