Microbial community diversity as a predictor of virus survival in groundwater

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7/1/2013 - 6/30/2015

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  • Katherine McMahon, UW-Madison
  • Mark Borchardt, USDA

This proposed project will evaluate the effect of native microbiological communities found in Wisconsin’s groundwater on the survival and inactivation of human enteric viruses, a frequent contaminant of municipal supply wells in the state. We will address critical information gaps related to the relationship between virus survival in groundwater and the communities of other co-occurring microbes (bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes). Results from prior work and ecological theory hint at a relationship between microbial diversity and virus survival. We hypothesize that higher microbial community diversity leads to decreased virus survival. Project objectives are (1) Relate microbial diversity measures of archived groundwater samples from wells in Wisconsin to previously measured virus levels in these samples; and (2) Relate groundwater microbial diversity levels manipulated in laboratory microcosms to virus inactivation rates. We will use modern molecular techniques to measure virus concentrations (qPCR) and microbial diversity (community fingerprinting and SSU rRNA tag sequencing). The project leverages an extensive sample archive collected by PI Borchardt during projects previously funded by WGRMP. Our work will ultimately lead to more accurate predictions of virus concentrations in groundwater, and will also provide valuable fundamental information about the extent of microbial diversity in these relatively under-studied habitats.

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