Modeling the die-off of E. coli and Ascaris in wastewater-irrigated vegetables: implications for microbial health risk reduction associated with irrigation cessation

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This study assessed the die-off of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Ascaris suum on lettuce (Great Lakes 118) and cabbage (Brassica oleracea var capitata) in wastewater-irrigated fields using comparative mathematical die-off models. The study revealed that none of the survival curves of E. coli and A. suum was best fitted with the log-linear model, indicating that the classical first-order kinetic approach is inadequate in many cases. The biphasic die-off model best described the die-off of E. coli on lettuce (kmax1 = 2.62 day−1 and kmax2 = 0.22 day−1) and cabbage (kmax1 = 1.06 day−1 and kmax2 = 0.53 day−1). The die-off of A. suum on lettuce was best described by the biphasic model (kmax1 = 0.48 day−1 and kmax2 = 0.01 day−1) and best described by log linear + tail (kmax = 0.44) on cabbage. A comparative health risk assessment associated with the consumption of lettuce showed significant underestimation of the number of days of irrigation cessation required to achieve E. coli O157:H7 and Ascaris tolerable annual infection risk when using biphasic die-off rates compared with other die-off rates. The study stresses the need to test different die-off models as inputs for quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) particularly for interventions associated with health risk reduction.

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