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Environ Sci Technol. 2010 May 1;44(9):3423-8. doi: 10.1021/es903282p.

Characterization of Enterococcus spp. from human and animal feces using 16S rRNA sequences, the esp gene, and PFGE for microbial source tracking in Korea.

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Department of Environmental Health and Institute of Health and Environment, School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


Contamination from human and animal fecal waste is a primary cause of water pollution. Microbial source tracking (MST) may be a useful tool for high-quality environmental management and for assessing human health risks associated with water pollution. The goal of this study was to evaluate Enterococcus spp. as a target organism for MST. Thirty-four fecal samples were collected from five different sources (human, chicken, pig, cow, and goose) in South Korea. In total, 237 Enterococcus spp. were isolated from feces using membrane- Enterococcus indoxyl-beta-d-glucoside agar. The 16S rRNA gene and the whole genome were analyzed using nucleic acid sequencing and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), respectively. Both phylogenetic analysis and principal coordinate analysis using UniFrac were performed on the nucleic acid sequences of the 16S rRNA gene. According to P-tests from UniFrac, significant differences existed between Enterococcus spp. isolated from human feces and those from animal feces. In addition, we evaluated whether the esp gene of Enterococcus faecium could be a specific target for Enterococcus spp. isolated from human feces. Of 58 E. faecium isolates tested, only three were esp-positive. The specificity of the esp gene of E. faecium isolated from human feces was 100%, but the sensitivity was <10%. These results suggest that Enterococcus spp. have different molecular characteristics according to their fecal source and that these characteristics can be further identified by analyzing the esp gene and 16S rRNA sequences, whereas PFGE provides limited information on the fecal sources of Enterococcus spp.

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