Contamination with bacterial zoonotic pathogen genes in U.S. streams influenced by varying types of animal agriculture

Science of the Total Environment
By: , and 



Animal waste, stream water, and streambed sediment from 19 small (< 32 km2) watersheds in 12 U.S. states having either no major animal agriculture (control, n = 4), or predominantly beef (n = 4), dairy (n = 3), swine (n = 5), or poultry (n = 3) were tested for: 1) cholesterol, coprostanol, estrone, and fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) concentrations, and 2) shiga-toxin producing and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and pathogenic and vancomycin-resistant enterococci by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on enrichments, and/or direct quantitative PCR. Pathogen genes were most frequently detected in dairy wastes, followed by beef, swine and poultry wastes in that order; there was only one detection of an animal-source-specific pathogen gene (stx1) in any water or sediment sample in any control watershed. Post-rainfall pathogen gene numbers in stream water were significantly correlated with FIB, cholesterol and coprostanol concentrations, and were most highly correlated in dairy watershed samples collected from 3 different states. Although collected across multiple states and ecoregions, animal-waste gene profiles were distinctive via discriminant analysis. Stream water gene profiles could also be discriminated by the watershed animal type. Although pathogen genes were not abundant in stream water or streambed samples, PCR on enrichments indicated that many genes were from viable organisms, including several (shiga-toxin producing or enterotoxigenic E. coli, Salmonella, vancomycin-resistant enterococci) that could potentially affect either human or animal health. Pathogen gene numbers and types in stream water samples were influenced most by animal type, by local factors such as whether animals had stream access, and by the amount of local rainfall, and not by studied watershed soil or physical characteristics. Our results indicated that stream water in small agricultural U.S. watersheds was susceptible to pathogen gene inputs under typical agricultural practices and environmental conditions. Pathogen gene profiles may offer the potential to address both source of, and risks associated with, fecal pollution.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Contamination with bacterial zoonotic pathogen genes in U.S. streams influenced by varying types of animal agriculture
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.04.087
Volume 563-564
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Michigan Water Science Center, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 11 p.
First page 340
Last page 350
Country United States
State Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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