Evidence of avian and possum fecal contamination in rainwater tanks as determined by microbial source tracking approaches

Ahmed, W., Hamilton, K. A., Gyawali, P., Toze, S. and Haas, C. N. (2016) Evidence of avian and possum fecal contamination in rainwater tanks as determined by microbial source tracking approaches. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 82 14: 4379-4386. doi:10.1128/AEM.00892-16

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Author Ahmed, W.
Hamilton, K. A.
Gyawali, P.
Toze, S.
Haas, C. N.
Title Evidence of avian and possum fecal contamination in rainwater tanks as determined by microbial source tracking approaches
Journal name Applied and Environmental Microbiology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1098-5336
Publication date 2016-07-01
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1128/AEM.00892-16
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 82
Issue 14
Start page 4379
End page 4386
Total pages 8
Place of publication Washington, DC, United States
Publisher American Society for Microbiology
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Avian and possum fecal droppings may negatively impact roof-harvested rainwater (RHRW) water quality due to the presence of zoonotic pathogens. This study was aimed at evaluating the performance characteristics of a possum feces-associated (PSM) marker by screening 210 fecal and wastewater samples from possums (n=20) and a range of nonpossum hosts (n=190) in Southeast Queensland, Australia. The host sensitivity and specificity of the PSM marker were 0.90 and 0.95 (maximum value, 1.00), respectively. The mean concentrations of the GFD marker in possum fecal DNA samples (8.8x107 gene copies per g of feces) were two orders of magnitude higher than those in the nonpossum fecal DNA samples (5.0x105 gene copies per g of feces). The host sensitivity, specificity, and concentrations of the avian feces-associated GFD marker were reported in our recent study (W. Ahmed, V. J. Harwood, K. Nguyen, S. Young, K. Hamilton, and S. Toze, Water Res 88:613-622, 2016, http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au /10.1016/j.watres.2015.10.050). The utility of the GFD and PSM markers was evaluated by testing a large number of tank water samples (n=134) from the Brisbane and Currumbin areas. GFD and PSM markers were detected in 39 of 134 (29%) and 11 of 134 (8%) tank water samples, respectively. The GFD marker concentrations in PCR-positive samples ranged from 3.7x102 to 8.5x105 gene copies per liter, whereas the concentrations of the PSM marker ranged from 2.0x103 to 6.8x103 gene copies per liter of water. The results of this study suggest the presence of fecal contamination in tank water samples from avian and possum hosts. This study has established an association between the degradation of microbial tank water quality and avian and possum feces. Based on the results, we recommend disinfection of tank water, especially for tanks designated for potable use.
Keyword Avian and possum fecal contamination
Rainwater tanks
Microbial source tracking
Roof-harvested rainwater (RHRW)
Water quality
Zoonotic pathogens
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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