Comparative electrochemical inactivation of bacteria and bacteriophage

Kevin P. Drees, Morteza Abbaszadegan, Raina M. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Electric fields and currents have been shown to be capable of disinfecting drinking water and reducing the numbers of bacteria and yeast in food. However, little research has been conducted regarding the effectiveness of electric fields and currents in the inactivation of viruses. The objective of this study was to compare the ability of bacteria and bacteriophage to survive exposure to direct electric current in an electrochemical cell, where they would be subject to irreversible membrane permeabilization processes, direct oxidation of cellular/viral constituents by electric current, and disinfection by electrochemically generated oxidants. Suspensions of the bacteria Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and bacteriophage MS2 and PRD1 at both high (approximately 1×106CFU or PFU/mL) and low (approximately 1×103CFU or PFU/mL) population densities were exposed to currents ranging from 25 to 350mA in 5s pulses. Post-exposure plaque counts of the bacteriophage were proportionally higher than bacterial culturable counts at corresponding current exposures. E. coli and MS2 were then exposed to 5mA for 20min at both high and low population densities. The inactivation rate of E. coli was 2.1-4.3 times greater than that of MS2. Both bacteria and bacteriophage were more resistant to exposure to direct current at higher population densities. Also, amelioration of inactivation within the electrochemical cell by the reducing agent glutathione indicates the major mechanism of inactivation in the electrochemical cell is disinfection by electrochemically generated oxidants. The implications of these results are that technologies relying upon direct current to reduce the numbers of microbes in food and water may not be sufficient to reduce the numbers of potentially pathogenic viruses and ensure the safety of the treated food or water.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2291-2300
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2003


  • Bacteriophage
  • Current
  • Direct
  • Electrochemical
  • Inactivation
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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