Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 28, pp 27676–27692 | Cite as

Analogies and differences among bacterial and viral disinfection by the photo-Fenton process at neutral pH: a mini review

  • Stefanos GiannakisEmail author
New Challenges in the Application of Advanced Oxidation Processes


Over the last years, the photo-Fenton process has been established as an effective, green alternative to chemical disinfection of waters and wastewaters. Microorganisms’ inactivation is the latest success story in the application of this process at near-neutral pH, albeit without clearly elucidated inactivation mechanisms. In this review, the main pathways of the combined photo-Fenton process against the most frequent pathogen models (Escherichia coli for bacteria and MS2 bacteriophage for viruses) are analyzed. Firstly, the action of solar light is described and the specific inactivation mechanisms in bacteria (internal photo-Fenton) and viruses (genome damage) are presented. The contribution of the external pathways due to the potential presence of organic matter in generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) and their effects on microorganism inactivation are discussed. Afterwards, the effects of the gradual addition of Fe and H2O2 are assessed and the differences among bacterial and viral inactivation are highlighted. As a final step, the simultaneous addition of both reagents induces the photo-Fenton in the bulk, focusing on the differences induced by the homogeneous or heterogeneous fraction of the process and the variation among the two respective targets. This work exploits the accumulated evidence on the mechanisms of bacterial inactivation and the scarce ones towards viral targets, aiming to bridge this knowledge gap and make possible the further application of the photo-Fenton process in the field of water/wastewater treatment.


E. coli MS2 coliphage virus Photo-Fenton Advanced oxidation process Water and wastewater disinfection Natural organic matter (NOM) 



Adenosine tri-phosphate


Carbonate buffer solution


Compound parabolic collector


Dimethyl sulfoxide


Dissolved organic matter


Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry


Ligand-to-metal charge transfer


Natural organic matter


Reactive oxygen species


Raceway pond reactors


Solar disinfection


Funding information

Stefanos Giannakis would like to acknowledge the European project WATERSPOUTT H2020-Water-5c-2015 (GA 688928) for the financial support.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Basic Sciences (SB), Institute of Chemical Science and Engineering (ISIC), Group of Advanced Oxidation Processes (GPAO)École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland

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