Virus Removal and Inactivation Mechanisms during Iron Electrocoagulation: Capsid and Genome Damages and Electro-Fenton Reactions.
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Virus destabilization and inactivation are critical considerations in providing safe drinking water. We demonstrate that iron electrocoagulation simultaneously removed (via sweep flocculation) and inactivated a non-enveloped virus surrogate (MS2 bacteriophage) under slightly acidic conditions, resulting in highly effective virus control (e.g., 5-logs at 20 mg Fe/L and pH 6.4 in 30 min). Electrocoagulation simultaneously generated H2O2 and Fe(II) that can potentially trigger electro-Fenton reactions to produce reactive oxygen species such as OH and high valent oxoiron(IV) that are capable of inactivating viruses. To date, viral attenuation during water treatment has been largely probed by evaluating infective virions (as plaque forming units) or genomic damage (via the quantitative polymerase chain reaction). In addition to these existing means of assessing virus attenuation, a novel technique of correlating transmission electron micrographs of electrocoagulated MS2 with their computationally altered three-dimensional electron density maps was developed to provide direct visual evidence of capsid morphological damages during electrocoagulation. The majority of coliphages lost at least 10-60% of the capsid protein missing a minimum of one of the 5-fold and two of 3- and 2-fold regions upon electrocoagulation, revealing substantial localized capsid deformation. Attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy revealed potential oxidation of viral coat proteins and modification of their secondary structures that were attributed to reactive oxygen species. Iron electrocoagulation simultaneously disinfects and coagulates non-enveloped viruses (unlike conventional coagulation), adding to the robustness of multiple barriers necessary for public health protection and appears to be a promising technology for small-scale distributed water treatment.