Destruction of Bacteria and Viruses in Seawater

by Ralph Mitchell, Gordon McKay Prof. of Appl. Biology; Div. of Engrg. and Appl. Physics, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA,

Serial Information: Journal of the Sanitary Engineering Division, 1971, Vol. 97, Issue 4, Pg. 425-432

Document Type: Journal Paper


Marine microbial predators destroy enteric bacteria in seawater. Viruses are destroyed by unknown marine microbial antagonists and by a toxic chemical component of the seawater. Viruses can be protected by adsorption to living or dead bacterial cells. Two distinct processes appear to be associated with the destruction of viruses in seawater. The native marine microflora are involved in viral inactivation in a manner similar to that observed with enteric bacteria. However, the antagonistic microorganisms have not yet been isolated. A chemical component of the seawater was also shown to be involved in the destruction of viruses in seawater. This component probably is a heavy metal. The frequent outbreaks of infectious hepatitis which have been associated with the consumption of shellfish clearly indicate that a percentage of the viruses in the sea survive this inactivation and reach the shellfish. The data have shown that viruses can be protected from inactivation for long periods of time by adsorption to living or dead bacterial cells, or possibly cell debris in the sea.

Subject Headings: Microbes | Bacteria | Viruses | Sea water | Adsorption | Seas and oceans | Toxicity | Heavy metals

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