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Sunlight Inactivation of Human Polymerase Chain Reaction Markers and Cultured Fecal Indicators in River and Saline Waters

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Decay rates for sunlight inactivation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) markers for total Bacteroidales, human-specific Bacteroidales, Escherichia coli , and Bifidobacterium adolescentis relative to cultured E. coli were investigated. The experiment used 100-L chambers of fresh water and seawater (paired with dark controls) seeded with human sewage and exposed to natural sunlight over three summer days. Culturable E. coli levels in sunlight-exposed chambers decreased by at least 3 logs on day 1, and by day 3 a total reduction of 4.5 to 5.5 logs was achieved in fresh water and seawater, respectively. In contrast, PCR detection of the four gene targets in sunlight-exposed chambers reduced by no more than 2 logs over the duration of the study (k t < 0.071 loge units h−1). Under these experimental conditions, PCR markers are considerably more conservative than culturable E. coli and can persist for extended periods of time following inactivation of E. coli .

Keywords: Bacteroidales; Escherichia coli; PCR markers; river water; seawater; sunlight inactivation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2013

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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