Human fecal matter contains a large number of viruses, and current bacterial indicators used for monitoring water quality do not correlate with the presence of pathogenic viruses. Adenoviruses and enteroviruses have often been used to identify fecal pollution in the environment; however, other viruses shed in fecal matter may more accurately detect fecal pollution. The purpose of this study was to develop a baseline understanding of the types of viruses found in raw sewage. PCR was used to detect adenoviruses, enteroviruses, hepatitis B viruses, herpesviruses, morbilliviruses, noroviruses, papillomaviruses, picobirnaviruses, reoviruses, and rotaviruses in raw sewage collected throughout the United States. Adenoviruses and picobirnaviruses were detected in 100% of raw sewage samples and 25% and 33% of final effluent samples, respectively. Enteroviruses and noroviruses were detected in 75% and 58% of raw sewage samples, respectively, and both viral groups were found in 8% of final effluent samples. This study showed that adenoviruses, enteroviruses, noroviruses, and picobirnaviruses are widespread in raw sewage. Since adenoviruses and picobirnaviruses were detected in 100% of raw sewage samples, they are potential markers of fecal contamination. Additionally, this research uncovered previously unknown sequence diversity in human picobirnaviruses. This baseline understanding of viruses in raw sewage will enable educated decisions to be made regarding the use of different viruses in water quality assessments.
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