Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), caused by a group of enteric viruses such as Enterovirus 71 (EV71), Coxsackievirus A16 (CVA16) and Coxsackievirus A10 (CVA10), is heavily epidemic in East Asia. This research focused on investigating the occurrence of HFMD pathogens in domestic sewage and secondary effluent before disinfection in a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Xi'an, the largest megacity in northwest China. In order to simultaneously detect all three HFMD pathogens, a semi-nested RT-PCR assay was constructed with a newly designed primer set targeting conservative gene regions from the 5' untranslated region (UTR) to VP2. As a result, 86% of raw sewage samples and 29% of the secondary effluent samples were positive for the HFMD viral gene, indicating that HFMD pathogens were highly prevalent in domestic wastewater and that they could also persist, even with lower probability, in the secondary effluent before disinfection. Of the three HFMD pathogens, CVA10 was positive in 48% of the total samples, while the occurrences of CVA16 and EV71 were 12% and 2%, respectively. It could thus be stated that CVA10 is the main HFMD pathogen prevailing in the study area, at least during the investigation period. High genetic diversity in the conservative gene region among the same serotype of the HFMD pathogen was identified by phylogenetic analysis, implying that this HFMD pathogen replicates frequently among the population excreting the domestic sewage.
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