Outbreaks of infectious diseases by microbial pathogens can cause substantial losses of stock in aquaculture systems. There are several ways to eliminate these pathogens including the use of antibiotics, biocides and conventional disinfectants, but these leave undesirable chemical residues. Conversely, using sunlight for disinfection has the advantage of leaving no chemical residue and is particularly suited to countries with sunny climates. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a photocatalyst that increases the effectiveness of solar disinfection. In recent years, several different types of solar photocatalytic reactors coated with TiO2 have been developed for waste water and drinking water treatment. In this study a thin-film fixed-bed reactor (TFFBR), designed as a sloping flat plate reactor coated with P25 DEGUSSA TiO2, was used.
The level of inactivation of the aquaculture pathogen Aeromonas hydrophila ATCC 35654 was determined after travelling across the TFFBR under various natural sunlight conditions (300-1200 W m-2), at 3 different flow rates (4.8, 8.4 and 16.8 L h-1). Bacterial numbers were determined by conventional plate counting using selective agar media, cultured (i) under conventional aerobic conditions to detect healthy cells and (ii) under conditions designed to neutralise reactive oxygen species (agar medium supplemented with the peroxide scavenger sodium pyruvate at 0.05% w/v, incubated under anaerobic conditions), to detect both healthy and sub-lethally injured (oxygen-sensitive) cells. The results clearly demonstrate that high sunlight intensities (≥ 600 W m-2) and low flow rates (4.8 L h-1) provided optimum conditions for inactivation of A. hydrophila ATCC 3564, with greater overall inactivation and fewer sub-lethally injured cells than at low sunlight intensities or high flow rates. Low sunlight intensities resulted in reduced overall inactivation and greater sub-lethal injury at all flow rates.
This is the first demonstration of the effectiveness of the TFFBR in the inactivation of Aeromonas hydrophila at high sunlight intensities, providing proof-of-concept for the application of solar photocatalysis in aquaculture systems.