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J Environ Qual. 2013 May-Jun;42(3):713-25. doi: 10.2134/jeq2012.0359.

Evaluating the occurrence of host-specific , general fecal indicators, and bacterial pathogens in a mixed-use watershed.


Fecal contamination of water is very common, and, in the United States, prevention is complicated by the colossal span of waterways (>3.5 million miles), heterogeneous sources of pollution, and competing interests in water monitoring. The focus of this study was the Upper Sugar Creek Watershed, a mixed-use watershed with many headwater streams and one of the most contaminated waterways in Ohio. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and host-specific PCR for were evaluated for the potential to discern sources of fecal contamination. Pathogen-specific qPCR and culturable by most probable number (MPN) were compared at 21 established water quality monitoring sites in the watershed headwaters. Lower numbers of ruminant-specific markers were detected in the base flow water samples compared with the human-specific marker, suggesting the presence of hotspots of human fecal contamination. qPCR and MPN showed significant correlation ( = 0.57; < 0.001). Correlation between general fecal indicator and pathogen concentrations was weak or nonexistent. Coexistence of and human-specific was common ( = 0.015). qPCR may have a greater potential for predicting fecal contamination due to its sensitivity, rapid analysis, and availability of host-specific assays. However, the lack of a strong correlation between pathogens and general fecal indicators suggests that assessment of health risk associated with fecal contamination will require a complement of approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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