Leaching of viruses and other microorganisms naturally occurring in pig slurry to tile drains on a well-structured loamy field in Denmark

Jesper Schak Krog, Anita Forslund, Lars Erik Larsen, Anders Dalsgaard, Jeanne Kjaer, Preben Olsen, Anna Charlotte Schultz

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The amount of animal manure used in modern agriculture is increasing due to the increase in global animal production. Pig slurry is known to contain zoonotic bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp., and viruses such as hepatitis E virus and group A rotavirus. Coliform bacteria, present in manure, have previously been shown to leach into tile drains. This poses a potential threat to aquatic environments and may also influence the quality of drinking water. As knowledge is especially scarce about the fate of viruses when applied to fields in natural settings, this project sets out to investigate the leaching potential of six different microorganisms: E. coli and Enterococcus spp. (detected by colony assay), somatic coliphages (using plaque assays), and hepatitis E virus, porcine circovirus type 2, and group A rotavirus (by real-time polymerase chain reaction). All six microorganisms leached through the soil entering the tile drains situated at 1-m depth the first day following pig slurry application. The leaching pattern of group A rotavirus differed substantially from the pattern for somatic coliphages, which are otherwise used as indicators for virus contamination. Furthermore, group A rotavirus was detected in monitoring wells at 3.5-m depth up to 2 months after pig slurry application. The detection of viral genomic material in drainage water and shallow groundwater signifies a potential hazard to human health that needs to be investigated further, as water reservoirs used for recreational use and drinking water are potentially contaminated with zoonotic pathogens.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1045-1062
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons At tribution 4.0 International License.


  • Health
  • Pathogen
  • Solute transport
  • Agriculture
  • Groundwater monitoring


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