Effects of Temperature and Water Types on the Decay of Coronavirus: A Review

Publication Name

Water (Switzerland)


The analysis of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) gene copy numbers in wastewater samples can provide quantitative information on Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) cases within a sewer catchment. However, many wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) studies have neglected virus decay during the wastewater transportation process in sewers while back-calculating COVID-19 prevalence. Among various sewer condition parameters, wastewater temperature and dilution by fresh/saltwater infiltration may result in a significant change to the virus decay, in terms of both infectivity and Ribonucleic Acid (RNA). This paper reviewed the literature to identify and discuss the effects of temperature and water types (i.e., wastewater, freshwater, and seawater) on coronavirus decay based on the decay rate constants that were collected from published papers. To evaluate the importance of virus decay, a sensitivity analysis was then conducted with decay rates of SARS-CoV-2 RNA based on a WBE back-calculation equation. Finally, the decay rates of coronavirus in wastewater were also compared with those of other viruses to further understand the difference among virus species. The decay of SARS-CoV-2 RNA was found to be less impacted by temperature variation than viable coronaviruses. Nevertheless, WBE back-calculation was still sensitive to the RNA decay rates increased by warm wastewater (i.e., over 26 °C), which could lead to a two-times higher relative variance in estimated COVID-19 prevalence, considering the wastewater temperature variation between 4 and 37 °C in a sewer catchment with a 12-h hydraulic retention time. Comparatively, the sensitivity of the WBE estimation to the enveloped SARS-CoV-2 was greater than nonenveloped enteric viruses, which were less easily degradable in wastewater. In addition, wastewater dilution by stormwater inflow and accompanied cold weather might alleviate the decay of coronavirus infectivity, thus increasing the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission through wastewater. Overall, this paper aims to better understand the impact of in-sewer processes on coronavirus decay and its potential implications for WBE. The outcome could quantitatively inform WBE and improve awareness of the increased risk of COVID-19 infection via wastewater during heavy rainfall events. Given the identified scarcity of data available for coronavirus decay in salt water or with chemical additions, future research on the fate of SARS-CoV-2 subjected to chemical dosing for sewer or wastewater treatment plant operations is recommended.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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