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Water Res. 2003 Jul;37(13):3263-8.

Deer diet affects ribotype diversity of Escherichia coli for bacterial source tracking.

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Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, University of Georgia, 3111 Miller Plant Sciences Bld, Athens, GA 30602-7272, USA.


Ribotyping is one of a number of genotypic methods for bacterial source tracking. This method requires a host origin database of one bacterial species be established in order to identify environmental isolates. Researchers establishing these databases have observed considerable ribotype diversity within a specific bacterial species. One source of this diversity may be diet. We determined the effect of diet on ribotype diversity for Escherichia coli in penned and wild deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in a 13-ha forested watershed. A total of 298 E. coli isolates was obtained, 100 from penned deer, 100 from wild deer, and 98 from the stream in the watershed to which all deer had access. The wild deer had significantly more ribotypes (35) than the penned deer (11 ribotypes, p = 0.05). This result suggests that diet affected ribotype diversity, and that a host origin database for bacterial source tracking should contain bacterial isolates from wild rather than from captive animals. Also, 42 of 98 (42.9%) environmental isolates matched penned and wild deer ribotypes. If bacterial source tracking determines that fecal contamination is predominantly from wildlife, then it may be unnecessary to monitor these watersheds because control over wildlife is difficult.

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