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From: TSS ()
Subject: Survival of PrPSc during Simulated Wastewater Treatment Processes
Date: September 27, 2007 at 10:13 am PST


Survival of PrPSc during Simulated Wastewater Treatment Processes

Pedersen, J1; Hinckley, G1; McMahon, K2; McKenzie, D3; Aiken, JM3
1University of Wisconsin, Soil Science/Civil and Environmental Engineering,
USA; 2University of Wisconsin, Civil and Environmental Engineering, USA;
3University of Wisconsin, Comparative Biosciences, USA

Concern has been expressed that prions could enter wastewater treatment systems
through sewer and/or septic systems (e.g., necropsy laboratories, rural meat
processors, private game dressing) or through leachate from landfills that have
received TSE-contaminated material. Prions are highly resistant to degradation and
many disinfection procedures raising concern that they could survive conventional
wastewater treatment. Here, we report the results of experiments examining the
partitioning and survival of PrPSc during simulated wastewater treatment processes
including activated and mesophilic anaerobic sludge digestion. We establish that PrPSc
can be efficiently extracted from activated and anaerobic digester sludges with 1%
sodium dodecyl sulfate, 10% sodium undecyl sulfate, and 1% sodium N-lauryl
sarcosinate. Activated sludge digestion does not result in significant degradation of
PrPSc. The protein partitions strongly to the activated sludge solids and is expected to
enter biosolids treatment processes. A large fraction of PrPSc survived simulated
mesophilic anaerobic sludge digestion. Our results suggest that if prions were to enter
municipal waste water treatment systems, most of the agent would partition to
activated sludge solids, survive mesophilic anaerobic digestion, and be present in
treated biosolids. Land application of biosolids containing prions could represent a
route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results argue for
excluding inputs of prions to municipal wastewater treatment facilities that would result
in unacceptable risk of prion disease transmission via contaminated biosolids.

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