Mineral Waste Containing High Levels of Iron from an Environmental Disaster (Bento Rodrigues, Mariana, Brazil) is Associated with Higher Titers of Enteric Viruses
Although the effects of heavy metals on the behavior, including infectivity, of bacteria have been studied, little information is available about their effects on enteric viruses. We report an investigation of effects on the biosynthesis of human adenoviruses (HAdV) and hepatitis A (HAV) of waters contaminated with mineral waste following an environmental disaster in Mariana City, Minas Gerais State, Brazil. The study area was affected on November 5, 2015, by 60 million m3 of mud (containing very high concentrations of iron salts) from a mining reservoir (Fundão), reaching the Gualaxo do Norte River (sites evaluated in this study), the “Rio Doce” River and finally the Atlantic Ocean. We found substantial counts of infectious HAdV and HAV (by qPCR) in all sampled sites from Gualaxo do Norte River, indicating poor basic sanitation in this area. The effects of iron on viral infection processes were evaluated using HAdV-2 and HAV-175, as DNA and RNA enteric virus models, respectively, propagated in the laboratory and exposed to this contaminated water. Experiments in field and laboratory scales found that the numbers of plaque forming units (PFU) of HAdV and HAV were significantly higher in contaminated water with high iron concentrations than in waters with low iron concentration (< 20 µg/L of iron). These findings indicate that iron can potentiate enteric virus infectivity, posing a potential risk to human and animal health, particularly during pollution disasters such as that described here in Mariana, Brazil.
KeywordsMariana disaster Enteric viruses Heavy metals Iron infectivity Public health
This study was financially supported by the Brazilian CNPq Project No. 472804/2013-8, and the CAPES/PDSE, and the RTA2014-00024-C04-01 from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Innovation. We thank the Geochemistry Laboratory (LGqA/UFOP) for technical assistance.
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