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Research article, 2004

Tracking the origin of faecal pollution in surface water: an ongoing project within the European Union research programme

Blanch AR, Belanche-Munoz L, Bonjoch X, Ebdon J, Gantzer C, Lucena F, Ottoson J, Kourtis C, Iversen A, Kuhn I, Moce L, Muniesa M, Schwartzbrod J, Skraber S, Papageorgiou G, Taylor HD, Wallis J, Jofre J


The objectives of this study are to generate knowledge about methods to track the sources of faecal pollution in surface waters, with the aim of having one or a few easy procedures applicable to different geographic areas in Europe. For this, a first field study using already proposed methods (genotypes of F-specific RNA bacteriophages, bacteriophages infecting Bacteroides fragilis, phenotypes of faecal coliforms and enterococci, and sterols) was done in five areas representing a wide array of conditions in Europe. The present faecal indicators (faecal coliforms, enterococci, sulfite reducing clostridia and somatic coliphages) were also included in this first field study. At the same time some emerging methods were settled or adapted to water samples and assayed in a limited number of samples. The results of this first field study indicated that no single parameter alone was able to discriminate the sources, human or non-human, of faecal pollution, but that a 'basket' of 4 or 5 parameters, which includes one of the present faecal indicators, will do so. In addition, numerical analysis of the data showed that this 'basket' will allow the successful building of predictive models. Both the statistical analyses and the studied predictive models indicated that genotype II of F-specific RNA bacteriophages, the coprostanol and the ratio coprostanol:coprostanol+epicoprostanol were, out of the studied parameters, those with a greater discriminating power. Either because unsuccessful adaptation of the methods to water samples or because the preliminary assays in water samples indicated low discriminating capability, only three (sorbitol-fermenting bifidobacteria, some species of bifidobacteria detected by PCR with specific primers and phages infecting Bacteroides tethaiotaomicron) of the newly assayed methods were considered for a second field study, which is currently underway. Expectations are that these new tools will minimize the number of parameters in the 'basket', or at least minimize the difficulty in assaying them

Published in

Journal of Water and Health
2004, Volume: 2, number: 4, pages: 249-260
Publisher: IWA Publishing

    SLU Authors

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
    Food Science
    Fish and Aquacultural Science

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