Hepatitis A is endemic in Tunisia wastewater

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is the main causative agent of hepatitis infection associated with waterborne outbreaks worldwide. In Tunisia, there is no specific surveillance system for HAV and current secondary wastewater treatment processes are unable to remove viral particles, which present a potential public health problem.

tunisia.wastewaterQualitative and quantitative analysis of HAV in 271 raw and treated wastewater samples from five sewage treatment plants (STPs) during 13 months was performed. Moreover, the efficiency of three secondary wastewater treatment processes (conventional activated sludge, extended aeration, and oxidation ditch activated sludge) was evaluated.

Data obtained demonstrated that HAV is endemic in Tunisia and circulates with high prevalence in both raw (66.9%) and treated (40.7%) wastewater. HAV circulates throughout the year in the coastal areas, with the highest rates found during summer and autumn, whereas in central Tunisia, high levels were shown in autumn and winter. Total virus removal was not achieved, since no difference in mean HAV loads was observed in effluents (6.0 × 103 genome copies [GC]/ml) and influents (2.7 × 103 GC/ml). The comparison of the HAV removal values of the three different wastewater treatment methods indicates that extended aeration and oxidation ditch activated sludge had better efficiency in removing viruses than conventional activated sludge did.

Molecular characterization revealed that the vast majority of HAV strains belonged to subgenotype IA, with the cocirculation of subgenotype IB in wastewater treatment plants that collect tourism wastewater.

Detection and molecular characterization of Hepatitis A virus from Tunisian wastewater treatment plants with different secondary treatments

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. July 2016 vol. 82 no. 13 3834-3845, DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00619-16

Imen Ouardani, Syrine Turki, Mahjoub Aouni, and Jesús L. Romalde