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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Sep;75(18):5787-96. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00448-09. Epub 2009 Jul 24.

Evaluation of swine-specific PCR assays used for fecal source tracking and analysis of molecular diversity of swine-specific "bacteroidales" populations.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 452211, USA.


In this study, we evaluated the specificity, distribution, and sensitivity of Prevotella strain-based (PF163 and PigBac1) and methanogen-based (P23-2) PCR assays proposed to detect swine fecal pollution in environmental waters. The assays were tested against 222 fecal DNA extracts derived from target and nontarget animal hosts and against 34 groundwater and 15 surface water samples from five different sites. We also investigated the phylogenetic diversity of 1,340 "Bacteroidales" 16S rRNA gene sequences derived from swine feces, swine waste lagoons, swine manure pits, and waters adjacent to swine operations. Most swine fecal samples were positive for the host-specific Prevotella-based PCR assays (80 to 87%), while fewer were positive with the methanogen-targeted PCR assay (53%). Similarly, the Prevotella markers were detected more frequently than the methanogen-targeted assay markers in waters historically impacted with swine fecal contamination. However, the PF163 PCR assay cross-reacted with 23% of nontarget fecal DNA extracts, although Bayesian statistics suggested that it yielded the highest probability of detecting pig fecal contamination in a given water sample. Phylogenetic analyses revealed previously unknown swine-associated clades comprised of clones from geographically diverse swine sources and from water samples adjacent to swine operations that are not targeted by the Prevotella assays. While deeper sequencing coverage might be necessary to better understand the molecular diversity of fecal Bacteroidales species, results of sequence analyses supported the presence of swine fecal pollution in the studied watersheds. Overall, due to nontarget cross amplification and poor geographic stability of currently available host-specific PCR assays, development of additional assays is necessary to accurately detect sources of swine fecal pollution.

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