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Real-time PCR quantification of human adenoviruses in urban rivers indicates genome prevalence but low infectivity


Real-time PCR was applied to quantify the abundance of human adenoviruses in two southern California urban rivers, the San Gabriel and Los Angeles. A total of 114 river samples from five different locations were collected over a 1-year period and analyzed for human adenoviruses, along with fecal indicator bacteria and coliphages. Adenoviruses were detected by real-time PCR in similar to 16% of the samples, with concentrations ranging from 10(2) to 10(4) genomes per liter. However, a plaque assay using two human tissue culture cell lines, HEK-293A and A549, yielded negative results, suggesting that adenoviruses detected by real-time PCR are likely noninfectious. Enterovirus genome was detected in similar to 7% of the samples by reverse transcription-PCR. Analysis by Spearman's rho rank order correlation showed significant correlations between fecal indicator bacteria and indicator virus (total coliform, fecal coliform, enterococcus, and coliphage values). However, no significant correlations were found between human adenoviruses quantified by real-time PCR and culturable coliphages or fecal indicator bacteria. Kruskall-Wallis chi-square analysis showed significant seasonal variability of all fecal indicator bacteria and coliphages, while no significant variability was observed for adenoviruses or enteroviruses. This study presents the first quantitative measurement of human adenovirus genomes in urban rivers and their statistical relationship to fecal indicator bacteria and coliphages. The uncoupling between high-number genome copies of adenoviruses detected by real-time PCR and the absence of infectivity detected by tissue culture suggests that genome-based detection methods are inadequate for direct assessment of human health risk.

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