Systematic review and meta-analysis of decay rates of waterborne mammalian viruses and coliphages in surface waters

Alexandria B. Boehm, Andrea I. Silverman, Alexander Schriewer, K. Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Surface waters are essential natural resources. They are also receiving waters for a variety of anthropogenic waste streams that carry a myriad of pollutants including pathogens. Watershed and fate and transport models can help inform the spatial and temporal extent of microbial pollution from point and non-point sources and thus provide useful information for managing surface waters. Viruses are particularly important water-related pathogens because they often have a low infectious dose, which means that ingestion of even a small volume of water containing a low concentration of virions has the potential to cause disease. We conducted a systematic review of the literature, following best practices, to gather decay rate constants (k) of mammalian waterborne viruses (enteroviruses, adenoviruses, noroviruses, astroviruses, rotaviruses, and hepatitis A viruses) and coliphages in raw surface waters to aid in the parameterization of virus fate and transport models. We identified 562 k values from the literature, with the largest number identified for enteroviruses and coliphages and the smallest for astrovirus, hepatitis A virus, and norovirus. Average k values for each virus varied from 0.07 to 0.9 per day, in order from smallest to largest: Norwalk virus (i.e., noroviruses) < Human astrovirus < Mastadenovirus (i.e., adenoviruses) < Hepatovirus A (i.e., hepatitis A viruses) < Rotavirus A < coliphages < Enterovirus. A meta-analysis investigated how k varied among viruses for experiments conducted with different virus serotypes or species at different temperatures, salinities, and sunlight exposures, and for experiments that enumerated viruses using different methodologies. Virus species or serotype did not affect k among decay experiments. k values were generally larger for experiments conducted at higher temperatures, in sunlight, and in estuarine waters, and enumerated using culture methods. k values were statistically different between virus types with Norwalk virus, Hepatovirus A, and Mastadenovirus having smaller k values than other viruses, controlling for experimental condition and enumeration method. While F+ coliphage k values were similar to those of Enterovirus, Human astrovirus, and Rotavirus A, they were different from those of the other mammalian viruses. This compilation of coliphage and mammalian virus k values provides essential information for researchers and risk assessors who model virus fate and transport in surface waters and identifies avenues for future research to fill knowledge gaps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114898
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Coliphage
  • Inactivation
  • Modeling
  • Rate constant
  • Surface water
  • Viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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