Drinking water supplies which meet international recommendations for source, treatment and disinfection were analysed. Viruses recovered from 100 L-1,000 L volumes by in-line glass wool filters were inoculated in parallel into four cell culture systems. Cell culture inoculation was used to isolate cytopathogenic viruses, amplify the nucleic acid of non-cytopathogenic viruses and confirm viability of viruses. Over a period of two years, viruses were detected in 23% of 413 drinking water samples and 73% of 224 raw water samples. Cytopathogenic viruses were detected in 6% raw water samples but not in any treated drinking water supplies. Enteroviruses were detected in 17% drinking water samples, adenoviruses in 4% and hepatitis A virus in 3%. In addition to these viruses, astro- and rotaviruses were detected in raw water. All drinking water supplies had heterotrophic plate counts of <100/mL, total and faecal coliform counts of 0/100 mL and negative results in qualitative presence-absence tests for somatic and F-RNA coliphages (500 mL samples). These results call for a revision of water quality guidelines based on indicator organisms and vague reference to the absence of viruses.

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