Ammonia as an in-situ sanitizer: inactivation kinetics and mechanisms of the ssRNA virus MS2 by NH3
Sanitizing human and animal waste (e.g., urine, fecal sludge or grey water) is a critical step in reducing the spread of disease and ensuring microbially safe reuse of waste materials. Viruses are particularly persistent pathogens and can be transmitted through inadequately sanitized waste. However, adequate storage or digestion of waste can strongly reduce the number of viruses due to increases in pH and uncharged aqueous ammonia (NH3), a known biocide. In this study we investigated the kinetics and mechanisms of inactivation of the single-stranded RNA virus MS2 under temperature, pH and NH3 conditions representative of waste storage. MS2 inactivation was mainly controlled by the activity of NH3 over a pH range of 7.0 to 9.5 and temperatures lower than 40°C. Other bases (e.g., hydroxide, carbonate) additionally contributed to the observed reduction of infective MS2. The loss in MS2 infectivity could be rationalized by a loss in genome integrity, which was attributed to genome cleavage via alkaline transesterification. The contribution of each base to genome transesterification, and hence inactivation, could be related to the base pKa by means of a Bronsted relationship. The Bronsted relationship in conjunction with the activity of bases in solution enabled an accurate prediction of MS2 inactivation rates.