Detection of waterborne enteric viruses is an essential tool in assessing the risk of waterborne transmission. Cell culture is considered a gold standard for detection of these viruses. However, it is important to recognize the uncertainty and limitations of enteric virus detection in cell culture. Cell culture cannot support replication of all virus types and strains, and numerous factors control the efficacy of specific virus detection assays, including chemical additives, cell culture passage number, and sequential passage of a sample in cell culture. These factors can result in a 2- to 100-fold underestimation of virus infectivity. Molecular methods reduce the time for detection of viruses and are useful for detection of those that do not produce cytopathogenic effects. The usefulness of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to access virus infectivity has been demonstrated for only a limited number of enteric viruses and is limited by an understanding of the mechanism of virus inactivation. All of these issues are important to consider when assessing waterborne infectious viruses and expected goals on virus reductions needed for recycled water. The use of safety factors to account for this may be useful to ensure that the risks in drinking water and recycled water for potable reuse are minimized.
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