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J Environ Qual. 2006 May 31;35(4):1018-25. Print 2006 Jul-Aug.

Comparison of Escherichia coli and Campylobacter jejuni transport in saturated porous media.

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USDA-ARS, 230 Bennett Lane, Bowling Green, KY 42104, USA.


Due to the difficulties in testing for specific pathogens, water samples are tested for the presence of nonpathogenic indicator organisms to determine whether a water supply has been contaminated by fecal material. An implicit assumption in this approach is that where pathogenic microorganisms are present fecal indicator organisms are present as well; yet surprisingly few studies have been conducted that directly compare the transport of indicator organisms with pathogenic organisms in ground water environments. In this study we compared the cell properties and transport of Escherichia coli, a commonly used indicator organism, and Campylobacter jejuni, an important enteropathogen commonly found in agricultural wastes, through saturated porous media. Differences in cell properties were determined by measuring cell geometry, hydrophobicity, and electrophoretic mobility. Transport differences were determined by conducting miscible displacement experiments in laboratory columns. Under the experimental conditions tested, C. jejuni was much more negatively charged and more hydrophobic than E. coli. In addition, C. jejuni cells were slightly longer, narrower, and less spherical than E. coli. The variations in cell properties, primarily surface charge, resulted in significant differences in transport between these two microorganisms, with the transport of C. jejuni exceeding that of E. coli when conditions favored low attachment rates, thus calling into question the usefulness of using E. coli as an indicator organism for this important pathogen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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