Sourcing faecal pollution: a combination of library-dependent and library-independent methods to identify human faecal pollution in non-sewered catchments.

Research paper by W W Ahmed, J J Stewart, T T Gardner, D D Powell, P P Brooks, D D Sullivan, N N Tindale

Indexed on: 08 May '07Published on: 08 May '07Published in: Water Research


Library-dependent (LD) (biochemical fingerprinting of Escherichia coli and enterococci) and library-independent (LI) (PCR detection of human-specific biomarkers) methods were used to detect human faecal pollution in three non-sewered catchments. In all, 550 E. coli isolates and 700 enterococci isolates were biochemically fingerprinted from 18 water samples and compared with metabolic fingerprint libraries of 4508 E. coli and 4833 enterococci isolates. E. coli fingerprints identified human unique biochemical phenotypes (BPTs) in nine out of 18 water samples; similarly, enterococci fingerprints identified human faecal pollution in 10 water samples. Seven samples were tested by PCR for the detection of biomarkers. Human-specific HF134 Bacteroides and enterococci surface protein (esp) biomarkers were detected in five samples. Four samples were also positive for HF183 Bacteroides biomarker. The combination of biomarkers detected human faecal pollution in six out of seven water samples. Of the seven samples analysed for both the indicators/markers, at least one indicator/marker was detected in every sample. Four of the seven PCR-positive samples were also positive for one of the human-specific E. coli or enterococci BPTs. The results indicated human faecal pollution in the studied sub-catchments after storm events. LD and LI methods used in this study complimented each other and provided additional information regarding the polluting sources when one method failed to detect human faecal pollution. Therefore, it is recommended that a combination of methods should be used to identify the source(s) of faecal pollution where possible.