IWA Publishing

Evaluation of Enterococcus-infecting phages as indices of fecal pollution


No microbial source tracking tool satisfies all the characteristics of an ideal indicator of human fecal pollution. For this reason, the potential of Enterococcus faecalis phages (enterophages) as markers of this type of contamination was tested by using eight Enterococcus type strains as the possible hosts. The prevalence of enterophages in animal feces and domestic sewage were determined, as were the inactivation rates in raw sewage at 4 °C and surface and tap waters at 22 °C. Enterophages were exclusively detected in raw sewage (up to 66.0 plaque forming units (PFU)/100 mL), suggesting a strictly human origin; and exhibited inactivation rates of approximately 0.002 to 0.05, 0.3 to 0.5 and 0.4 to 1.4 log day−1 in raw sewage and surface and tap waters, respectively, similar to those of previous reports on human enteric viruses under similar conditions. Interestingly, phages infecting other Enterococcus type strains were detected in both animal feces and domestic sewage in concentrations of up to 335.8 PFU/g and 96.0 PFU/100 mL, and certain phage isolates infected several of the strains tested. This clearly indicates the possible promiscuous nature of some Enterococcus phages and thus opens up the opportunity to further characterize these as indices of specific fecal sources.

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