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J Appl Bacteriol. 1991 Mar;70(3):265-74.

Sunlight and the survival of enteric bacteria in natural waters.

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Department of Civil Engineering, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


Escherichia coli and some salmonellas were exposed in seawater and freshwater to natural sunlight, visible light of comparable intensity, and light containing a similar proportion of u.v. as natural sunlight but of a much lower intensity. Direct viable bacterial counts and culturable counts on selective and non-selective media were made at intervals. The rate of decrease in numbers of culturable bacteria was significantly faster in seawater than in freshwater when exposed to natural sunlight. No significant difference was found between the rates of decrease in numbers of culturable bacteria in seawater and those in freshwater when bacteria were exposed to light with a small u.v. component of similar intensity. The effect of salinity no loss of culturability is, therefore, more significant in the presence of u.v. radiation. Direct counts by the acridine orange direct viable count method decreased much more slowly than the culturable counts in seawater but comparably with culturable counts in freshwater in natural sunlight. Direct viable counts and culturable counts decreased at a similar rate in seawater and in freshwater in visible light. This may signify the evolution of enteric bacteria towards a viable but non-culturable form in seawater when exposed to natural sunlight. The presence of humic acids significantly reduced loss of culturability but only in low salinity conditions. Salinity appears to be an important factor influencing culturability in bacteria exposed to sunlight.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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