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J Environ Manage. 2004 Oct;73(1):71-9.

Source tracking fecal bacteria in water: a critical review of current methods.

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NSERC/IRC Environmental Management of Drinking Water, Department of Biology, University of Victoria, PO Box 3020 Stn CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8N 3N5.


Many molecular and biochemical methods and techniques are being developed to track sources of bacteria in water and food. Currently, there is no standard method proposed for source tracking. This manuscript is a critical evaluation of the various methods used in watersheds, and highlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Making a decision on a single or combination of methods to use under a particular situation will depend on a number of factors including: question(s) to be answered, scale of identification (broad scale versus specific species identification), available expertise, cost of analysis, turnaround time, and access to facilities. This manuscript reviews several source tracking methodologies which are in current use for source tracking fecal bacteria in the environment including: ribotyping, pulse-field gel electrophoresis, denaturing-gradient gel electrophoresis, repetitive DNA sequences (Rep-PCR), host-specific 16S rDNA genetic markers, and antibiotic resistance analysis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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