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Appl Environ Microbiol. Feb 1993; 59(2): 353–357.
PMCID: PMC202112

Detection of Escherichia coli in sewage and sludge by polymerase chain reaction.


A method in which the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used was developed to amplify either a uidA gene fragment or a 16S rRNA gene fragment from Escherichia coli in sewage and sludge. Because of interference caused by humic acidlike substances, crude DNA extracts were purified with a Sephadex G-200 spun column before the PCR was begun. A Southern analysis in which a nonradioactive chemiluminescent method was used was performed to confirm the presence of PCR products. The sensitivity of detection for PCR products when the chemiluminescent method was used was determined to be 30 ag of E. coli genomic DNA template. In seeded sludge, the PCR amplified the target DNA from 80 E. coli cells per g of sludge and 50 Shigella dysenteriae cells per g of sludge. Because only 0.05 aliquot of a sludge extract was used for the PCR, we deduced that the PCR detected target DNA equivalent to the DNA of 2.5 to 4 cells in the extract. The PCR amplified the uidA fragment from diluted sewage influents and effluents containing E. coli cells. Therefore, the PCR performed with a chemiluminescent gene probe can be used to detect the presence of potentially pathogenic microorganisms in sewage and sludge. This technique can be expanded to permit direct detection of pathogenic microorganisms in water samples, thus leading to enhanced public health protection.

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Selected References

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