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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 Aug;65(8):3483-6.

Use of antibiotic resistance analysis to identify nonpoint sources of fecal pollution.

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Department of Biology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA.


A study was conducted to determine the reliability and repeatability of antibiotic resistance analysis as a method of identifying the sources of fecal pollution in surface water and groundwater. Four large sets of isolates of fecal streptococci (from 2,635 to 5,990 isolates per set) were obtained from 236 samples of human sewage and septage, cattle and poultry feces, and pristine waters. The patterns of resistance of the isolates to each of four concentrations of up to nine antibiotics were analyzed by discriminant analysis. When isolates were classified individually, the average rate of correct classification (ARCC) into four possible types (human, cattle, poultry, and wild) ranged from 64 to 78%. When the resistance patterns of all isolates from each sample were averaged and the resulting sample-level resistance patterns were classified, the ARCCs were much higher (96 to 100%). These data confirm that there are measurable and consistent differences in the antibiotic resistance patterns of fecal streptococci isolated from various sources of fecal pollution and that antibiotic resistance analysis can be used to classify and identify these sources.

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