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Investigation into Bacteroides persistence in drinking water distribution systems and alternative methods to detect this fecal indicator

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Bacteroides have been suggested as alternative indicators of fecal pollution since they are highly abundant in feces and are thought to have limited potential to grow in environment. However, recent

Bacteroides have been suggested as alternative indicators of fecal pollution since they are highly abundant in feces and are thought to have limited potential to grow in environment. However, recent literature suggests that Bacteroides can potentially survive within water distribution systems. The first objective of this study was therefore to investigate the validity of Bacteroides as a fecal indicator for drinking water through laboratory experiments and field studies. Experiments were performed using a laboratory scale PVC model water distribution system that was spiked with 109 Bacteroides. Samples were collected over the following four and analyzed by culture and molecular-based techniques. Second, field studies were performed by collecting water meters from two large chlorinated water distribution systems in central Arizona. Upon removal for repair by city personnel, meters were collected and biofilms samples were gathered within two hours. The biofilms were then analyzed using culture and molecular-based assays. The results from these studies support the hypothesis that Bacteroides DNA may be found in water distribution systems despite the difficulty of cultivating these bacterial cells. These experiments present the importance of considering biofilm interactions with fecal indicator bacteria when performing molecular assays on environmental samples, as biofilms may provide protection from high oxygen concentrations and grazing protozoa in bulk water that limit the persistence Bacteroides in the environment. Although the significance of biofilm interactions with surface or recreational waters may be small, they are likely important when considering drinking water delivered through distribution systems. The second objective of this study was to investigate alternative detection methodologies for the fecal indicator Bacteroides. In particular, this study focused on using a simplified protocol of Nucleic Acid Sequence Based Amplification (NASBA) and Thermophilic Helicase-Dependent Amplification (tHDA) to amplify the highly conserved 16s rRNA gene in the genomic DNA of fecal indicator Bacteroides. The results of this study show that the simplified NASBA procedure was not able to amplify the target, while continuous problems with tHDA exposed the methods lack of reliability. These results suggest higher reliability in the isothermal amplification methods needs to be achieved before application to environmental samples.

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  • 2012

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The use of Bacteroides genetic markers to identify microbial sources in natural water

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Water quality in surface water is frequently degraded by fecal contamination from human and animal sources, imposing negative implications for recreational water use and public safety. For this reason it

Water quality in surface water is frequently degraded by fecal contamination from human and animal sources, imposing negative implications for recreational water use and public safety. For this reason it is critical to identify the source of fecal contamination in bodies of water in order to take proper corrective actions for controlling fecal pollution. Bacteroides genetic markers have been widely used to differentiate human from other sources of fecal bacteria in water. The results of this study indicate that many assays currently used to detect human-specific Bacteroides produce false positive results in the presence of freshwater fish. To further characterize Bacteroides from fish and human, the fecal samples were cultured, speciated, and identified. As a result, forty six new Bacteroides 16S rRNA gene sequences have been deposited to the NCBI database. These sequences, along with selected animal fecal sample Bacteroides, were aligned against human B. volgatus, B. fragilis, and B. dorei to identify multi-segmented variable regions within the 16S rRNA gene sequence. The collected sequences were truncated and used to construct a cladogram, showing a clear separation between human B. dorei and Bacteroides from other sources. A proposed strategy for source tracking was field tested by collecting water samples from central AZ source water and three different recreational ponds. PCR using HF134 and HF183 primer sets were performed and sequences for positive reactions were then aligned against human Bacteroides to identify the source of contamination. For the samples testing positive using the HF183 primer set (8/13), fecal contamination was determined to be from human sources. To confirm the results, PCR products were sequenced and aligned against the four variable regions and incorporated within the truncated cladogram. As expected, the sequences from water samples with human fecal contamination grouped within the human clade. As an outcome of this study, a tool box strategy for Bacteroides source identification relying on PCR amplification, variable region analysis, human-specific Bacteroides PCR assays, and subsequent truncated cladogram grouping analysis has been developed. The proposed strategy offers a new method for microbial source tracking and provides step-wise methodology essential for identifying sources of fecal pollution.

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Date Created
  • 2012