Several recent studies have reported a decline in virus retention during virus challenge filtration experiments, although the mechanism(s) governing this phenomenon for different filters remains uncertain. Experiments were performed to evaluate the retention of PP7 and PR772 bacteriophage through Ultipor VF Grade DV20 virus filters during constant pressure filtration. While the larger PR772 phage was fully retained under all conditions, a 2-log decline in retention of the small PP7 phage was observed at high throughputs, even under conditions where there was no decline in filtrate flux. In addition, prefouling the membrane with an immunoglobulin G solution had no effect on phage retention. An internal polarization model was developed to describe the decline in phage retention arising from the accumulation of phage in the upper (reservoir) layer within the filter which increases the challenge to the lower (rejection) layer. Independent support for this internal polarization phenomenon was provided by confocal microscopy of fluorescently labeled phage within the membrane. The model was in good agreement with phage retention data over a wide range of phage titers, confirming that virus retention is throughput dependent and supporting current recommendations for virus retention validation studies. These results provide important insights into the factors governing virus retention by membrane filters and their dependence on the underlying structure of the virus filter membrane.
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