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Pepper mild mottle virus: A plant pathogen with a greater purpose in (waste)water treatment development and public health management

By: E.M. Symonds, Karena H. Nguyen, V.J. Harwood, M. Breitbart


An enteric virus surrogate and reliable domestic wastewater tracer is needed to manage microbial quality of food and water as (waste)water reuse becomes more prevalent in response to population growth, urbanization, and climate change. Pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV), a plant pathogen found at high concentrations in domestic wastewater, is a promising surrogate for enteric viruses that has been incorporated into over 29 water- and food-related microbial quality and technology investigations around the world. This review consolidates the available literature from across disciplines to provide guidance on the utility of PMMoV as either an enteric virus surrogate and/or domestic wastewater marker in various situations. Synthesis of the available research supports PMMoV as a useful enteric virus process indicator since its high concentrations in source water allow for identifying the extent of virus log-reductions in field, pilot, and full-scale (waste)water treatment systems. PMMoV reduction levels during many forms of wastewater treatment were less than or equal to the reduction of other viruses, suggesting this virus can serve as an enteric virus surrogate when evaluating new treatment technologies. PMMoV excels as an index virus for enteric viruses in environmental waters exposed to untreated domestic wastewater because it was detected more frequently and in higher concentrations than other human viruses in groundwater (72.2%) and surface waters (freshwater, 94.5% and coastal, 72.2%), with pathogen co-detection rates as high as 72.3%. Additionally, PMMoV is an important microbial source tracking marker, most appropriately associated with untreated domestic wastewater, where its pooled-specificity is 90% and pooled-sensitivity is 100%, as opposed to human feces where its pooled-sensitivity is only 11.3%. A limited number of studies have also suggested that PMMoV may be a useful index virus for enteric viruses in monitoring the microbial quality of fresh produce and shellfish, but further research is needed on these topics. Finally, future work is needed to fill in knowledge gaps regarding PMMoV's global

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