Send to

Choose Destination
J Appl Microbiol. 2006 Nov;101(5):1015-26.

F+ RNA coliphage typing for microbial source tracking in surface waters.

Author information

NOAA, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, Charleston, SC, USA.



The utility of coliphages to detect and track faecal pollution was evaluated using South Carolina surface waters that exceeded State faecal coliform standards.


Coliphages were isolated from 117 surface water samples by single agar layer (SAL) and enrichment presence/absence (EP/A) methods. Confirmed F+ RNA coliphages were typed for microbial source tracking using a library-independent approach. Concentrations of somatic coliphages using 37 and 44.5 degrees C incubation temperatures were found to be significantly different and the higher temperature may be more specific for faecal contamination. The EP/A technique detected coliphages infecting Escherichia coli Famp in 38 (66%) of the 58 surface water samples negative for F+ coliphages by the SAL method. However, coliphages isolated by EP/A were found to be less representative of coliphage diversity within a sample. Among the 2939 coliphage isolates tested from surface water and known source samples, 813 (28%) were found to be F+ RNA. The majority (94%) of surface water F+ RNA coliphage isolates typed as group I. Group II and/or III viruses were identified from 14 surface water stations, the majority of which were downstream of wastewater discharges. These sites were likely contaminated by human-source faecal pollution.


The results suggest that faecal contamination in surface waters can be detected and source identifications aided by coliphage analyses.


This study supports the premise that coliphage typing can provide useful, but not absolute, information to distinguish human from animal sources of faecal pollution. Furthermore, the comparison of coliphage isolation methods detailed in this study should provide valuable information to those wishing to incorporate coliphage detection into water quality assessments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center