Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Christine Stauber

Second Advisor

Dr. Matt Hayat


Zika virus emerged as a potential cause of the serious birth defect of microcephaly, and the rare neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome during the 2015 worldwide epidemic.. An estimated 80% of Zika virus cases are asymptomatic, and treatment for the disease is not mandated until an infection is confirmed. This has caused a challenge in determining the true burden Zika virus has on communities that face epidemics. There has been a methodological and research gap in the detection and recovery of enveloped viruses, such as Zika virus, in environmental waters. Because recent work has shown that Zika virus nucleic acids (RNA) is better detected in urine opposed to serum samples, methods to understand the detectability and survivability of Zika virus in various waters should be considered. The objectives of this study are to develop a system for laboratory study to detect Zika virus RNA in environmental waters and to evaluate the stability of Zika virus RNA in sewage under three temperatures: 4℃, 25℃ and 35℃. Zika virus strain MEX 1-44 was added to primary effluent from a local municipal wastewater treatment plant. Two experiments were conducted, and RNA was extracted at various time points. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was used to quantify Zika virus RNA concentration. A regression model with random effects was applied to the data to compare groups and to calculate the amount of time to virus inactivation. During the two experiments, Zika virus RNA was detected in all samples at all times and temperatures with qPCR. Zika virus RNA degradation was the fastest at 35℃ and it was relatively stable at 4℃ for 29 days. The results of these experiments suggest that Zika virus RNA is more environmentally stable than assumed. Additional work should be done to further explore materials and methods for detection of Zika virus in waters including evaluating concentration and recovery methods. Cost-effective methods to detect Zika vius RNA in municipal wastewater will be of crucial importance to better understand the burden of the disease in low resource community settings where clinical diagnosis may be expensive and challenging.