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Environmental stability of porcine respiratory coronavirus in aquatic environments
De Rijcke, M.; Shaikh, H.M.; Mees, J.; Nauwynck, H.J.; Vandegehuchte, M.B. (2021). Environmental stability of porcine respiratory coronavirus in aquatic environments. PLoS One 16(7): e0254540.
Peer reviewed article  

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    Marien/Kust; Zoet water

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  • Nauwynck, H.J., meer
  • Vandegehuchte, M.B., meer

    Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a family of viruses that are best known as the causative agents of human diseases like the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and COVID-19. CoVs spread by human-to-human transmission via droplets or direct contact. There is, however, concern about potential waterborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, as it has been found in wastewater facilities and rivers. To date, little is known about the stability of SARS-CoV-2 or any other free coronavirus in aquatic environments. The inactivation of terrestrial CoVs in seawater is rarely studied. Here, we use a porcine respiratory coronavirus (PRCV) that is commonly found in animal husbandry as a surrogate to study the stability of CoVs in natural water. A series of experiments were conducted in which PRCV (strain 91V44) was added to filtered and unfiltered fresh- and saltwater taken from the river Scheldt and the North Sea. Virus titres were then measured by TCID50-assays using swine testicle cell cultures after various incubation times. The results show that viral inactivation of PRCV in filtered seawater can be rapid, with an observed 99% decline in the viral load after just two days, which may depend on temperature and the total suspended matter concentration. PRCV degraded much slower in filtered water from the river Scheldt, taking over 15 days to decline by 99%, which was somewhat faster than the PBS control treatment (T99 = 19.2 days). Overall, the results suggest that terrestrial CoVs are not likely to accumulate in marine environments. Studies into potential interactions with exudates (proteases, nucleases) from the microbial food web are, however, recommended.

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