High-Throughput and Quantitative Procedure for Determining Sources of Escherichia coli in Waterways by Using Host-Specific DNA Marker Genes

Escherichia coli is currently used as an indicator of fecal pollution and to assess water quality. While several genotypic techniques have been used to determine potential sources of fecal bacteria impacting waterways and beaches, they do not allow for the rapid analysis of a large number of samples in a relatively short period of time. Here we report that gene probes identified by Hamilton and colleagues (M. J. Hamilton, T. Yan, and M. J. Sadowsky, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 72:4012-4019, 2006) were useful for the development of a high-throughput and quantitative macroarray hybridization system to determine numbers of E. coli bacteria originating from geese/ducks. The procedure we developed, using a QBot robot for picking and arraying of colonies, allowed us to simultaneously analyze up to 20,736 E. coli colonies from water samples, with minimal time and human input. Statistically significant results were obtained by analyzing 700 E. coli colonies per water sample, allowing for the analysis of approximately 30 sites per macroarray. Macroarray hybridization studies done on E. coli collected from water samples obtained from two urban Minnesota lakes and one rural South Carolina lake indicated that geese/ducks contributed up to 51% of the fecal bacteria in the urban lake water samples, and the level was below the detection limit in the rural lake water sample. This technique, coupled with the use of other host source-specific gene probes, holds great promise as a new quantitative microbial source tracking tool to rapidly determine the origins of E. coli in waterways and on beaches.
Date Issued
Journal Title
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Rights Holder
Minnesota Water Research Digital Library
Rights Management
Do Not Have Copyright Permission