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Microbiological and Chemical Exposure Assessment

Research In Action

Development of EPA Method 1615 for detecting waterborne enteroviruses and noroviruses


There is a potential for viruses to be found in drinking water systems, however, the concentration of these pathogens in water is generally unknown. To better characterize viruses in water, more inexpensive, quantitative, and rapid methods are needed. With such methods, more information on how commonly viruses occur, where they are most common, and what threat – if any – they pose to human health can be better understood. Additionally many viruses – noroviruses in particular – cannot be grown in cell cultures, which has been the usual method for detecting viable viruses in water.


Scientists at EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have developed EPA Method 1615, which combines traditional methods of cell culture with newer molecular techniques that allow rapid testing of large samples of groundwater for enteroviruses as well as noroviruses. Enteroviruses can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from the common cold to hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Noroviruses can result in vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches, muscle aches and other gastroenteritis symptoms. With EPA method 1615, a more cost-effective method for detecting these viruses in groundwater is now available.

Result and Impact

Scientists are still validating Method 1615. It is being considered for use in EPA’s study of the nation’s groundwater, slated to begin in 2013. Using data from this national groundwater study, EPA and communities will be able to evaluate the risks these viruses pose to humans, and develop new protections for public health.

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