npj Clean Water ( IF 4.870 ) Pub Date : 2019-03-04 , DOI: 10.1038/s41545-019-0032-3 Kyle Bibby; Katherine Crank; Justin Greaves; Xiang Li; Zhenyu Wu; Ibrahim A. Hamza; Elyse Stachler
Human exposure to pathogenic viruses in environmental waters results in a significant global disease burden. Current microbial water quality monitoring approaches, mainly based on fecal indicator bacteria, insufficiently capture human health impacts posed by pathogenic viruses in water. The emergence of the ‘microbiome era’ and high-throughput metagenome sequencing has led to the discovery of novel human-associated viruses, including both pathogenic and commensal viruses in the human microbiome. The discovery of novel human-associated viruses is often followed by their detection in wastewater, highlighting the great diversity of human-associated viruses potentially present in the water environment. Novel human-associated viruses provide a rich reservoir to develop viral water quality management tools with diverse applications, such as regulating wastewater reuse and monitoring agricultural and recreational waters. Here, we review the pathway from viral discovery to water quality monitoring tool, and highlight select human-associated viruses identified by metagenomics and subsequently detected in the water environment (namely Bocavirus, Cosavirus, CrAssphage, Klassevirus, and Pepper Mild Mottle Virus). We also discuss research needs to enable the application of recently discovered human-associated viruses in water quality monitoring, including investigating the geographic distribution, environmental fate, and viability of potential indicator viruses. Examples suggest that recently discovered human pathogens are likely to be less abundant in sewage, while other human-associated viruses (e.g., bacteriophages or viruses from food) are more abundant but less human-specific. The improved resolution of human-associated viral diversity enabled by metagenomic tools provides a significant opportunity for improved viral water quality management tools.