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Water Res. 2003 Feb;37(4):909-13.

Application of a rapid method for identifying fecal pollution sources in a multi-use estuary.

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Department of Microbiology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-3804, USA.


We demonstrate the application of a new PCR assay to detect and differentiate human and ruminant sources of fecal pollution in natural water samples. We tested samples collected from Tillamook Bay, Oregon, which has a long history of fecal pollution levels that exceed acceptable standards. The most likely sources are from dairy operations and ineffective sewage treatment. Using a suite of three PCR primer pairs specific for human or ruminant bacterial 16S ribosomal DNA markers, we detected at least one marker in 17 of 22 samples. In general, host-specific fecal markers were detected in areas that are heavily impacted by anthropogenic activities. Nine out of 11 sites classified as either urban or near a sewage point source were positive for the human marker while only five of these same sites were positive for ruminant markers. Conversely, 12 out of 21 sites classified as rural or agricultural use were positive for ruminant markers, while only six of these sites were positive for human pollution. This suite of host-specific genetic markers holds promise for identifying non-point source fecal pollution in coastal waters.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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