Methods to increase fidelity of repetitive extragenic palindromic PCR fingerprint-based bacterial source tracking efforts

Wail A. Hassan
Shiao Y. Wang, University of Southern Mississippi
Rudolph D. Ellender, University of Southern Mississippi


The goal of the study was to determine which similarity coefficient and statistical method to use to produce the highest rate of correct assignment (RCA) in repetitive extragenic palindromic PCR-based bacterial source tracking. In addition, the use of standards for deciding whether to accept or reject source assignments was investigated. The use of curve-based coefficients Cosine Coefficient and Pearson's Product Moment Correlation yielded higher RCAs than the use of band-based coefficients Jaccard, Dice, Jeffrey's x, and Ochiai. When enterococcal and Escherichia coli isolates from known sources were used in a blind test, the use of maximum similarity produced consistently higher RCAs than the use of average similarity. We also found that the use of a similarity value threshold and/or a quality factor threshold (the ratio of the average fingerprint similarity within a source to the average similarity of this source's isolates to an unknown) to decide whether to accept source assignments of unknowns increases the reliability of source assignments. Applying a similarity value threshold improved the overall RCA (ORCA) by 15 to 27% when enterococcal fingerprints were used and 8 to 29% when E. coli fingerprints were used. Applying the quality factor threshold resulted in a 22 to 32% improvement in the ORCA, depending on the fingerprinting technique used. This increase in reliability was, however, achieved at the expense of decreased numbers of isolates that were assigned a source.