Exploring the design implications of bacteriophages in mixed suspensions by considering attachment and break-up.
The validity and usefulness of implementing bacteriophages into water treatment systems as agents of targeted bacterial inactivation is yet to be determined. While some concerns are still more purely biological in nature other concerns are still chiefly rooted in design feasibility. This work investigated bacteriophage heteroaggregation, a process whereby phages attach to non-host background particles, to explore different design options for water quality engineers, especially tuning mixing velocity. This was done by adapting batch/mixing assays, originally developed to study inert particle heteroaggregation, to characterize bacteriophage and kaolinite heteroaggregation using modified Smoluchowski parameters under different ionic strength conditions. This work found that regardless of the ionic strength or the tested phage to kaolinite ratios heteroaggregation occurred rapidly and was likely driven by extended DLVO forces. A model of bacteriophage-kaolinite heteroaggregation was generated and showed promising correspondence with observed laboratory data. This model, along with other findings, suggests that should bacteriophages be utilized as agents of host inactivation they ought to be used following particle separation processes to reduce the likelihood of phage scavenging through attachment to particulate matter rather than the targeted bacteria.
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