In-sewer decay and partitioning of Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli and implications for their wastewater surveillance

Publication Name

Water Research


Campylobacter jejuni and coli are two main pathogenic species inducing diarrhoeal diseases in humans, which are responsible for the loss of 33 million lives each year. Current Campylobacter infections are mainly monitored by clinical surveillance which is often limited to individuals seeking treatment, resulting in under-reporting of disease prevalence and untimely indicators of community outbreaks. Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been developed and employed for the wastewater surveillance of pathogenic viruses and bacteria. Monitoring the temporal changes of pathogen concentration in wastewater allows the early detection of disease outbreaks in a community. However, studies investigating the WBE back-estimation of Campylobacter spp. are rare. Essential factors including the analytical recovery efficiency, the decay rate, the effect of in-sewer transport, and the correlation between the wastewater concentration and the infections in communities are lacking to support wastewater surveillance. This study carried out experiments to investigate the recovery of Campylobacter jejuni and coli from wastewater and the decay under different simulated sewer reactor conditions. It was found that the recovery of Campylobacter spp. from wastewater varied with their concentrations in wastewater and depended on the detection limit of quantification methods. The concentration reduction of Campylobacter. jejuni and coli in sewers followed a two-phase reduction model, and the faster concentration reduction during the first phase is mainly due to their partitioning onto sewer biofilms. The total decay of Campylobacter. jejuni and coli varied in different types of sewer reactors, i.e. rising main vs. gravity sewer. In addition, the sensitivity analysis for WBE back-estimation of Campylobacter suggested that the first-phase decay rate constant (k1) and the turning time point (t1) are determining factors and their impacts increased with the hydraulic retention time of wastewater.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access



Article Number


Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Queensland Health



Link to publisher version (DOI)