Membrane Bioreactor-Based Wastewater Treatment Plant in Saudi Arabia: Reduction of Viral Diversity, Load, and Infectious Capacity

Muhammad Jumat, Nur Hasan, Poorani Subramanian, Colin Heberling, Rita Colwell, Pei-Ying Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


A membrane bioreactor (MBR)-based wastewater treatment plant in Saudi Arabia was assessed over a nine-month period for virus removal efficiency. Viral diversity was detected using omics-based approaches. Log reduction values (LRV) of Adenoviruses (AdV) and Enteroviruses (EV) were enumerated using digital polymerase chain reaction (dPCR) and assessed for infectivity using fluorescence-based infection assays. MBR treatment was successful in reducing viral diversity. Plant viruses remained abundant in the treated effluent. Human enteric viruses were present in lower abundance than plant viruses, and were reduced by MBR at varying LRV. AdV copy numbers were reduced by 3.7-log. Infectious AdV was not detected in the effluent. EV copy numbers were reduced by 1.7-log post MBR and infectious EV decreased by an average of 2.0-log. Infectious EV was detected in the chlorinated effluent, occasionally in concentrations that approximate to its 50% infectious dose. Overall, results indicated that a MBR-based wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effectively reduces viral diversity, viral load, and infectious capacity by up to 4-logs. These findings suggest potential concerns associated with plant and human enteric viruses for reuse events in this country. Local guidelines for assessment of treated water quality should take into consideration both infectious viral concentration and LRV.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 17 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank George Princeton Dunsford for access to the KAUST wastewater treatment plant and Moustapha Harb for providing sampling assistance. The research reported in this publication was supported by the KAUST baseline funding BAS/1/1033-01-01 awarded to Pei-Ying Hong.


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