Preliminary survey of antibiotic-resistant fecal indicator bacteria and pathogenic Escherichia coli from river-water samples collected in Oakland County, Michigan, 2003

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5058

In cooperation with Oakland County, Michigan
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A preliminary study was done in Oakland County, Michigan, to determine the concentration of fecal indicator bacteria (fecal coliform bacteria and enterococci), antibiotic resistance patterns of these two groups, and the presence of potentially pathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli). For selected sites, specific members of these groups [E. coli, Enterococcus faecium (E. faecium) and Enterococcus faecalis (E. faecalis)] were isolated and tested for levels of resistance to specific antibiotics used to treat human infections by pathogens in these groups and for their potential to transfer these resistances. In addition, water samples from all sites were tested for indicators of potentially pathogenic E. coli by three assays: a growth-based assay for sorbitol-negative E. coli, an immunological assay for E. coli O157, and a molecular assay for three virulence and two serotype genes. Samples were also collected from two non-urbanized sites outside of Oakland County. Results from the urbanized Oakland County area were compared to those from these two non-urbanized sites.

Fecal indicator bacteria concentrations exceeded State of Michigan recreational water-quality standards and (or) recommended U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standards in samples from all but two Oakland County sites. Multiple-antibiotic-resistant fecal coliform bacteria were found at all sites, including two reference sites from outside the county. Two sites (Stony Creek and Paint Creek) yielded fecal coliform isolates resistant to all tested antibiotics. Patterns indicative of extended-spectrum-β-lactamase (ESBL)- producing fecal coliform bacteria were found at eight sites in Oakland County and E. coli resistant to clinically significant antibiotics were recovered from the River Rouge, Clinton River, and Paint Creek. Vancomycin-resistant presumptive enterococci were found at six sites in Oakland County and were not found at the reference sites. Evidence of acquired antibiotic resistances was detected in bacteria from multiple sites in Oakland County but not detected in bacteria from the reference sites. Integrons capable of transferring resistance were detected in isolates from the River Rouge and Clinton River. E. faecium and E. faecalis identified in samples collected from Kearsley Creek and Evans Ditch were resistant to high levels of vancomycin and carried transferable genes responsible for resistance.

Several sites in Oakland County had indicators of pathogenic E. coli in August and (or) September 2003. Two samples from the Clinton River in August tested positive for all three E. coli O157 tests. Both the August and September samples from one River Rouge site were positive for the immunological and molecular assay for E. coli O157. A combination of virulence genes commonly associated with human illness was detected at five sites in August and seven sites in September. Antibiotic-resistance profiles of clinical concern along with genes capable of transferring the resistance were found at several sites throughout Oakland County; samples from many of these sites also contained potentially pathogenic E. coli.

Study Area

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USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary survey of antibiotic-resistant fecal indicator bacteria and pathogenic Escherichia coli from river-water samples collected in Oakland County, Michigan, 2003
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
Contributing office(s):
Michigan Water Science Center
v, 34 p.
United States
Oakland County