Scientific Review of Coronavirus Studies Finds SARS-CoV-2 Highly Unstable in Water, Sensitive to Disinfectants

Resource Recovery, Technology and Innovation

With hundreds of scientific papers about the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) released every month, several Italian researchers decided to take a step back and examine 3,600 studies on the fate of the coronavirus in water and wastewater. The review of studies was published in the International Water Association’s Water Research journal.

While there are a few studies showing infectious virus cultured from patient fecal samples, there is still uncertainty about how much infectious virus is reaching wastewater treatment plants and receiving waters, if any at all. The researchers from three Italian public health ministries wanted to understand the potential of fecal-oral and waterborne transmission of the virus.  It’s important to note the World Health Organization continues to report they have seen no cases of fecal-oral transmission of the coronavirus to date.

The Italian researchers review found:

  • SARS Coronavirus has been detected in wastewater but not as infectious particles
  • Temperature is an important factor influencing viral survival (the titer of infectious virus declines more rapidly at 23°C–25 °C than at 4 °C)
  • CoV seems to have a low stability in the environment and is very sensitive to oxidants, like chlorine;
  • CoV appears to be inactivated significantly faster in water than non-enveloped human enteric viruses with known waterborne transmission
  • There is no evidence of (infectious/viable) CoV transmission through contaminated water
  • There is no current evidence that human coronaviruses are present in surface or ground waters or are transmitted through contaminated drinking-water

The researchers called for further studies on the fate of SARS-CoV-2 in water and wastewater.

Water Research: Coronavirus in water environments: Occurrence, persistence and concentration methods – A scoping review