Caister Academic Press

Microbial Source Tracking: Current and Future Molecular Tools in Microbial Water Quality Forensics

Jorge W. Santo Domingo, Regina Lamendella and Nicholas Ashbolt
from: Environmental Microbiology: Current Technology and Water Applications (Edited by: Keya Sen and Nicholas J. Ashbolt). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2011)


Regulations in the United States and elsewhere stipulate that drinking and recreational waters should be regularly monitored for microbial indicators of fecal pollution. Hence, the health risks associated with these waters are determined using microbial indicators rather than by direct pathogen detection. Detecting pathogens may seem more appropriate, however, pathogens are difficult to enumerate since they often are found in environmental samples in very low numbers that still present health concerns and may take several days to weeks to detect, lessening their value for risk management. In this chapter, we discuss the use of molecular methods that attempt to track fecal sources of pollution in environmental waters and discuss their role in environmental monitoring and management. A general description of the most commonly used methods is provided, and where appropriate, some of the advantages and limitations are highlighted. The use of genomic technologies to develop new methods and to fill existing research gaps in microbial source tracking (MST) is also discussed. As clear from other chapters of this book, the field of environmental microbiology is undergoing a fundamental change through the development of tools that can describe the molecular diversity of microbial populations relevant to environmental fecal pollution. While this is a dynamic field, emphasis is placed on culture-independent methods relying on DNA-based targets that currently dominate the scientific literature read more ...
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