Factors related to occurrence and distribution of selected bacterial and protozoan pathogens in Pennsylvania streams

Water Research



The occurrence and distribution of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and bacterial and protozoan pathogens are controlled by diverse factors. To investigate these factors in Pennsylvania streams, 217 samples were collected quarterly from a 27-station water-quality monitoring network from July 2007 through August 2009. Samples were analyzed for concentrations of Escherichia coli (EC) and enterococci (ENT) indicator bacteria, concentrations of Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia cysts, and the presence of four genes related to pathogenic types of EC (eaeA, stx2, stx1, rfbO157) plus three microbial source tracking (MST) gene markers that are also associated with pathogenic ENT and EC (esp, LTIIa, STII). Water samples were concurrently analyzed for basic water chemistry, physical measures of water quality, nutrients, metals, and a suite of 79 organic compounds that included hormones, pharmaceuticals, and antibiotics. For each sample location, stream discharge was measured by using standardized methods at the time of sample collection, and ancillary sample site information, such as land use and geological characteristics, was compiled. Samples exceeding recreational water quality criteria were more likely to contain all measured pathogen genes but notCryptosporidium or Giardia (oo)cysts. FIB and Giardia density and frequency of eaeA gene occurrence were significantly related to season. When discharge at a sampling location was high (>75th percentile of daily mean discharge), there were greater densities of FIB and Giardia, and the stx2rfbO157, STII, and esp genes were found more frequently than at other discharge conditions. Giardia occurrence was likely related to nonpoint sources, which are highly influential during seasonal overland transport resulting from snowmelt and elevated precipitation in late winter and spring in Pennsylvania. When MST markers of human, swine, or bovine origin were present, samples more frequently carried the eaeA, stx2, stx1, and rfbO157 genes, but no genes were related exclusively to an individual MST marker. The human source pharmaceuticals (HSPs) acetaminophen and caffeine were correlated with Giardia, and the presence of HSPs proved to be more useful than MST markers in distinguishing the occurrence of Giardia. The HSPs caffeine and carbamazepine were correlated with the sum total of pathogen genes detected in a sample, demonstrating the value of using HSPs as an indicator of fecally derived pathogens. Sites influenced by urban land use with less forest were more likely to have greater FIB and Giardia densities and sum of the array of pathogen genes. Sites dominated by shallow carbonate bedrock in the upstream catchment were likely to have greater FIB densities and higher sum totals of pathogen genes but no correlation with Giardia detection. Our study provides a range of specific environmental, chemical, geologic, and land-use variables related to occurrence and distribution of FIB and selected bacterial and protozoan pathogens in Pennsylvania streams. The information presented could be useful for resource managers in understanding bacterial and protozoan pathogen occurrence and their relation to fecal indicator bacteria in similar settings.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Factors related to occurrence and distribution of selected bacterial and protozoan pathogens in Pennsylvania streams
Series title Water Research
DOI 10.1016/j.watres.2012.10.006
Volume 47
Issue 1
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Michigan Water Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 300
Last page 314
Time Range Start 2007-07-01
Time Range End 2009-08-31
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N