To effectively manage surface and ground waters it is necessary to improve our ability to detect and identify sources of fecal contamination. We evaluated the use of the anaerobic bacterial group Bacteroides-Prevotella as a potential fecal indicator. Terminal restriction length polymorphism (T-RFLP) of the 16S rRNA genes from this group was used to determine differences in populations and to identify any unique populations in chickens, cows, deer, dogs, geese, horses, humans, pigs, and seagulls. The group appears to be a good potential fecal indicator in all groups tested except for avians. Cluster analysis of Bacteroides-Prevotella community T-RFLP profiles indicates that Bacteroides-Prevotella populations from samples of the same host species are much more similar to each other than to samples from different source species. We were unable to identify unique peaks that were exclusive to any source species; however, for most host species, at least one T-RFLP peak was identified to be more commonly found in that species, and a combination of peaks could be used to identify the source. T-RFLP profiles obtained from water spiked with known-source feces contained the expected diagnostic peaks from the source. These results indicate that the approach of identifying Bacteroides-Prevotella molecular markers associated with host species might be useful in identifying sources of fecal contamination in the environment.
Additional publication details
Comparison of Bacteroides-Prevotella 16S rRNA genetic markers for fecal samples from different animal species