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Inactivation of Ascaris Eggs in Human Fecal Material Through In Situ Production of Carboxylic Acids

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journal contribution
posted on 31.07.2017, 00:00 by Lauren A. Harroff, Janice L. Liotta, Dwight D. Bowman, Largus T. Angenent
Discovering new ways to inactivate pathogens in human waste is critical for the improvement of worldwide access to sanitation and for the reduction of the environmental impact of conventional waste treatment processes. Here, we utilized the carboxylate platform and chain elongation to produce n-butyric acid and n-caproic acid via the anaerobic fermentation of human fecal material. Then, we inactivated Ascaris eggs through exposure to these carboxylic acids. Using batch experiments with human fecal material as substrate, we accumulated n-butyric acid and n-caproic acid at total concentrations (uncharged acid plus conjugate base) of 257 and 27.1 mM, respectively. We then showed that carboxylic acids at these concentrations inactivated Ascaris eggs when the pH was below the pKa for the acids, causing them to exist primarily in the uncharged forms. We observed that uncharged carboxylic acids affected viability rather than the pH itself or conjugate bases. In addition, we modeled the viability of Ascaris eggs as a function of uncharged carboxylic acid concentration for n-butyric acid and n-caproic acid at exposure times of 2, 6, 12, and 20 days. The results presented here indicate that in situ biological production of carboxylic acids in HFM provides a promising method of pathogen inactivation and may lead to new developments in sanitation technology and treatment of fecal sludge.