Human noroviruses are excreted in feces from infected individuals and included in wastewater. It is critical to remove/inactivate them in wastewater treatment processes, particularly in the disinfection step, before release to aquatic environments. However, the high mutation rates of human noroviruses raise concerns about the emergence of strains that are less susceptible to disinfectants and can survive even after wastewater treatment. This study aimed to demonstrate the strain-dependent susceptibility of norovirus to free chlorine. A population originated from the murine norovirus strain S7-PP3, a surrogate for human noroviruses in environmental testing, was exposed to free chlorine and then propagated in a host cell. This cycle of free chlorine exposure followed by propagation in cells was repeated 10 times, and populations with lower susceptibility to free chlorine were obtained from two independent trials of chlorine exposure cycles. Open reading frame 2 (ORF2) and ORF3 of the murine norovirus genome were analyzed by next-generation sequencing, and a unique nonsynonymous mutation (corresponding to a change from phenylalanine to serine) at nucleotide (nt) 7280 in ORF3, which encodes the minor capsid protein VP2, was found in chlorine-exposed populations from both trials. It was confirmed that all of the clones from the chlorine-treated population had lower susceptibility to free chlorine than those from the control population. These results indicate that exposure to free chlorine and dilution exert different driving forces to form murine norovirus (MNV) quasispecies, and that there is a selective force to form MNV quasispecies under free chlorine exposure.
ASJC Scopus subject areas