Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mineral water contamination claim

08.04.2002


Signs of virus from human faeces found in bottled water.

Mineral water is marketed for its purity. But Swiss scientists are claiming that some brands may be contaminated with human faeces.

In 11 of 29 European brands of bottled mineral water Christian Beuret and colleagues of the Cantonal Food Laboratory in Solothurn found signs of the virus that causes more than 90% of the world’s stomach upsets 1,2. The virus is called Norwalk-like virus or NLV.



"We didn’t believe the results at first, so we got them independently confirmed by a private Swiss lab," says Beuret. "We think human faeces are sporadically contaminating the water either at the source or some time during the bottling procedure." They have no idea how this might be occurring.

Nor do the scientists know whether or not the water poses a health risk, as the samples cannot be tested for infectiveness. But unpublished evidence suggests that low levels of the virus in mineral water may give some elderly people gastroenteritis.

The findings are contentious but raise real concerns, says Barry Vipond of the Public Health Laboratory in Bristol, UK. "Current views are that you only need a very low level - in the range they found - of active virus for it to be infectious," he says. However, he cautions that the technique Beuret’s team used, called RT-PCR, is prone to contamination.

The mineral-water industry also picks up on this point. A statement from a leading company that markets bottled water says: "The RT-PCR technique is not suited to the routine analysis of potentially very weakly contaminated water." It also points out that NLV was not detected when six laboratories, including Beuret’s, analysed 300 bottles of five brands. This study has not been published.

Water margins

NLV’s genome is made not of double strands of DNA but its single-stranded relative RNA. In the mineral water Beuret’s team detected RNA sequences commonly found in the faeces of people infected with NLV.

A year later, nine out of ten virus-containing bottles were still contaminated. Such longevity suggests that an envelope of proteins surrounds the virus protecting its RNA. These proteins also make the virus infectious.

But NLV RNA has been spotted in healthy people, says Tamie Ando, who studies viral gastroenteritis at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases in Atlanta. So some strains may lie dormant in the body without causing disease, he says.

"Although we don’t know whether the strains found in the mineral water are dangerous, the work is very important because we need to learn how our environment has been contaminated by these viruses," Ando says.

References
  1. Beuret, C., Kohler, D. & Luthi, T. "Norwalk-like Virus Sequences" detected by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction in mineral waters imported into or bottled in Switzerland. Journal of Food Protection, 63, 1576 - 1582, (2000).
  2. Beuret, C., Kohler, D., Baumgartner, A. & Luthi, T.M. Norwalk-like virus (NVL)-sequences in mineral waters: One year monitering of three brands. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 68, 1925 - 1931, (2002).


NATASHA MACDOWELL | © Nature News Service

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inselspital: Fewer CT scans needed after cerebral bleeding
20.03.2019 | Universitätsspital Bern

nachricht Building blocks for new medications: the University of Graz is seeking a technology partner
19.03.2019 | Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>