Environmental Escherichia coli: Ecology and public health implications - A review

Journal of Applied Microbiology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Escherichia coli is classified as a rod-shaped, Gram-negative bacterium in the family Enterobacteriaceae. The bacterium mainly inhabits the lower intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and is often discharged into the environment through feces or wastewater effluent. The presence of E. coli in environmental waters has long been considered as an indicator of recent fecal pollution. However, numerous recent studies have reported that some specific strains of E. coli can survive for long periods of time, and potentially reproduce, in extra-intestinal environments. This indicates that E. coli can be integrated into indigenous microbial communities in the environment. This naturalization phenomenon calls into question the reliability of E. coli as a fecal indicator bacterium (FIB). Recently, many studies reported that E. coli populations in the environment are affected by ambient environmental conditions affecting their long-term survival. Large-scale studies of population genetics provide the diversity and complexity of E. coli strains in various environments, affected by multiple environmental factors. This review examines the current knowledge on the ecology of E. coli strains in various environments in regards to its role as a FIB and as a naturalized member of indigenous microbial communities. Special emphasis is given on the growth of pathogenic E. coli in the environment, and the population genetics of environmental members of the genus Escherichia. The impact of environmental E. coli on water quality and public health is also discussed.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Environmental Escherichia coli: Ecology and public health implications - A review
Series title Journal of Applied Microbiology
DOI 10.1111/jam.13468
Volume 123
Issue 3
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 12 p.
First page 570
Last page 581