Ebola-infected sewage may require longer holding period

March 11, 2015, Georgia State University
The Ebola virus, isolated in November 2014 from patient blood samples obtained in Mali. The virus was isolated on Vero cells in a BSL-4 suite at Rocky Mountain Laboratories. Credit: NIAID

Storing Ebola-infected sewage for a week at 86° Fahrenheit or higher should allow enough time for more than 99.99 percent of the virus to die, though lower ambient temperatures may require a longer holding period, according to a new study by researchers at Georgia State University's School of Public Health.

The study co-authored by Lisa M. Casanova, assistant professor of , and Scott R. Weaver, research assistant professor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, used bacteriophage Φ6, a type of virus, as a stand-in to study how long Ebola and similar viruses can survive in latrines and other systems for collecting and disposing of sewage. Bacteriophage Φ6 has a lipid envelope, meaning it has structural similarities to Ebola and several other types of virus, allowing for a safe study that did not require use of Ebola itself.

"The places hardest hit by Ebola are the places that often have the least infrastructure for safely disposing of sewage and are using things like pit latrines," said Dr. Casanova. "They need the answers to questions like this."

Their study, "Inactivation of an Enveloped Surrogate Virus in Human Sewage," was published recently in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

To reduce the risk of infection for sanitary workers, the World Health Organization recommends latrine waste contaminated with Ebola be held for a week or longer before any efforts are made to transport it.

Casanova and Weaver conducted experiments on samples taken from an urban wastewater reclamation facility, spiking the samples with Φ6 as a stand-in for Ebola. Their analysis found that at 86° Fahrenheit (equal to 30° Celsius) the virus was essentially inactivated after 3-7 days. However, samples tested at 72.6° Fahrenheit (or 22°C) took several days longer to decay.

The study suggests longer holding times may be needed where temperatures are lower. Longer holding times may also be advisable to eliminate "longer-surviving subpopulations of viruses."

Explore further: How long can Ebola live?

More information: Environmental Science & Technology Letters, pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.estlett.5b00029

Related Stories

How long can Ebola live?

December 10, 2014
The Ebola virus travels from person to person through direct contact with infected body fluids. But how long can the virus survive on glass surfaces or countertops? How long can it live in wastewater when liquid wastes from ...

Ebola study in macaques provides timeframes for post-mortem viral stability

February 12, 2015
To determine how long Ebola virus could remain infectious in a body after death, National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists sampled deceased Ebola-infected monkeys and discovered the virus remained viable for at least ...

Unsafe burials increase in Ebola-hit countries: WHO

February 19, 2015
Ebola-hit Sierre Leone and Guinea saw an increase in the last week in unsafe burials that risk spreading the disease, the World Health Organization reported.

Ebola transmitted via cough possible, not likely

February 21, 2015
(HealthDay)—Based on prior evidence, health workers dealing with Ebola primarily have worried about disease transmission from a patient's blood, vomit, and feces, all of which contain high levels of virus as symptoms progress, ...

Study shows how Ebola becomes lethal as it spreads

January 21, 2015
Scientists investigated why Ebola virus is so deadly when it spreads from animals to humans and then from human-to-human contact. The research team looked at the Zaire Ebola strain in an animal system to understand how it ...

Ebola drug study canceled due to declining cases

February 4, 2015
Doctors Without Borders says that human testing on a potential Ebola drug is being stopped because there aren't enough patients because of a decline in Ebola cases.

Recommended for you

Flu infection study increases understanding of natural immunity

January 23, 2018
People with higher levels of antibodies against the stem portion of the influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) protein have less viral shedding when they get the flu, but do not have fewer or less severe signs of illness, according ...

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.