Lack of correlation between enterococcal counts and the presence of human specific fecal markers in Mississippi creek and coastal waters

C. Flood, University of Southern Mississippi
Shiao Y. Wang, University of Southern Mississippi
M. Carr, University of Southern Mississippi
R. D. Ellender, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

The objective of this study was to determine whether statistically valid correlations could be shown between enterococcal counts of samples from creek and coastal sites and the presence of two molecular, library-independent markers that specify human and/or sewage pollution. Four hundred ninety samples were collected between August 2007 and April 2009 to determine enterococcal counts and the presence of genetic markers for the sewage indicator organisms Methanobrevibacter smithii and Batteroidales. The presence of human/sewage markers and enterococcal counts were higher in creek samples than coastal samples, but the higher creek levels did not statistically correlate with the either enterococcal count or the presence of the markers present in coastal samples. Furthermore, there was no correlation between enterococcal counts in coastal samples and either marker at any of the beach sites tested. The results of this investigation in Mississippi coastal waters suggest that human/sewage markers are unlikely to correlate with enterococci counts in the nearshore environment and that enterococcal counts may be indicative of other animal or environmental sources. Additionally, a study comparing conventional gel electrophoresis with capillary electrophoresis did not convincingly establish that one method was better than the other in regard to the results obtained. The capillary method does allow reproducibility of results and the ability to analyze multiple samples in a short period of time; however, the operational expenditures exceed the cost of traditional gel electrophoresis. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.