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Water Res. 2009 Nov;43(19):4828-37. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2009.06.036. Epub 2009 Jun 24.

Rapid QPCR-based assay for fecal Bacteroides spp. as a tool for assessing fecal contamination in recreational waters.

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Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 3431 Arendell St., Morehead City, NC 28557, USA.


Concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB; e.g. Escherichia coli, and Enterococcus sp.) can only be used in limited ways for determining the source of fecal contamination in recreational waters because they cannot distinguish human from non-human fecal contamination. Several Bacteroides spp. have been suggested as potential alternative indicators. We have developed a rapid, culture-independent method for quantifying fecal Bacteroides spp. using quantitative PCR (QPCR) targeting the 16S rRNA gene. The assay specifically targets and quantifies the most common human Bacteroides spp. The details of the method are presented, including analyses of a wide range of fecal samples from different organisms. Specificity and performance of the QPCR assay were also tested via a laboratory experiment where human sewage and gull guano were inoculated into a range of environmental water samples. Concentrations of fecal Bacteroides spp., total Enterococcus sp., Enterococcus faecium, Enterococcus faecalis, and Enterococcus casseliflavus were measured using QPCR, and total Enterococcus sp. and E. coli were quantified by membrane filtration (MF). Samples spiked with gull guano were highly concentrated with total Enterococcus sp., E. coli, E. faecalis, and E. casseliflavus, demonstrating that these indicators are prominent in animal feces. On the other hand, fecal Bacteroides spp. concentrations were high in samples containing sewage and were relatively low in samples spiked with gull guano. Sensitivity and specificity results suggest that the rapid fecal Bacteroides spp. QPCR assay may be a useful tool to effectively predict the presence and concentration of human-specific fecal pollution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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