The disinfection efficiency of peracetic acid (PAA) was investigated on three microbial types using three different methods (filtration-based ATP (adenosine-triphosphate) bioluminescence, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), culture-based method). Fecal indicator bacteria (Enterococcus faecium), virus indicator (male-specific (F+) coliphages (coliphages)), and protozoa disinfection surrogate (Bacillus subtilis spores (spores)) were tested. The mode of action for spore disinfection was visualized using scanning electron microscopy. The results indicated that PAA concentrations of 5 ppm (contact time: 5 min), 50 ppm (10 min), and 3,000 ppm (5 min) were needed to achieve 3-log reduction of E. faecium, coliphages, and spores, respectively. Scanning electron microscopy observation showed that PAA targets the external layers of spores. The lower reduction rates of tested microbes measured with qPCR suggest that qPCR may overestimate the surviving microbes. Collectively, PAA showed broad disinfection efficiency (susceptibility: E. faecium > coliphages > spores). For E. faecium and spores, ATP bioluminescence was substantially faster (∼5 min) than culture-based method (>24 h) and qPCR (2–3 h). This study suggests PAA as an effective alternative to inactivate broad types of microbial contaminants in water. Together with the use of rapid detection methods, this approach can be useful for urgent situations when timely response is needed for ensuring water quality.

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