Test distinguishes between animal and human bacterial pollution
Researchers from the University of Missouri have developed a test that can differentiate between human and animal sources of fecal bacterial pollution. They report their results in the April 2001 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
The test, called ribotyping, is a DNA-based test used to identify and classify bacteria based on genetic differences. This type of test has been commonly used to identify bacteria but has only recently has it been enlisted to differentiate between human and animal sources of fecal bacteria.
In the study, the researchers tested the ability of ribotyping to not only distinguish between human and animal sources of fecal bacteria, but also to identify the source as one of seven different types of animals: cattle, swine, horses, chickens, turkeys, dogs and migratory geese. The test had an accuracy of over 97% in distinguishing between human and nonhuman sources, and had a high degree of accuracy identifying the animal source.
"Fecal polution of water resources is an environmental problem of increasing importance. Identification of individual host sources of fecal Escherichia coli, such as humans, pets, production animals and wild animals is a prerequisite to formulation of remediation plans," say the researchers. "Application of this technique to identification of host sources of fecal coliforms in water could assist in formulation of pollution reduction plans.
(C.A. Carson, B.L. Shear, M.R. Ellersieck and A. Asfaw. 2001. Identification of fecal Escherichia coli from humans and animals by ribotyping. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 67: 1503-1507.)
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Contact: Jim Sliwa
American Society for Microbiology