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Environ Int. 2012 Sep 15;45:151-64. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2012.02.009. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

Application of enteric viruses for fecal pollution source tracking in environmental waters.

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United States Environmental Protection Agency, Ecosystems Research Division, 960 College Station Road, Athens, GA, USA.


Microbial source tracking (MST) tools are used to identify sources of fecal pollution for accurately assessing public health risk and implementing best management practices (BMPs). This review focuses on the potential of enteric viruses for MST applications. Following host infection, enteric viruses replicate and are excreted in high numbers in the hosts' feces and urine. Due to the specificity in host infection, enteric viruses have been considered one of the most accurate library-independent culture-independent MST tools. In an assessment of molecular viral assays based on sensitivity, specificity and the density of the target virus in fecal-impacted samples, human adenovirus and human polyomavirus were found to be the most promising human-specific viral markers. However, more research is needed to identify promising viral markers for livestock because of cross-reactions that were observed among livestock species or the limited number of samples tested for specificity. Other viral indicators of fecal origin, F+ RNA coliphage and pepper mild mottle virus, have also been proposed as potential targets for developing MST markers. Enhancing the utility of enteric viruses for MST applications through next generation sequencing (NGS) and virus concentration technology is discussed in the latter part of this review. The massive sequence databases generated by shotgun and gene-targeted metagenomics enable more efficient and reliable design of MST assays. Finally, recent studies revealed that alternative virus concentration methodologies may be more cost-effective than standard technologies such as 1MDS; however, improvements in the recovery efficiency and consistency are still needed. Overall, developments in metagenomic information combined with efficient concentration methodologies, as well as high host-specificity, make enteric viruses a promising tool in MST applications.

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