Fecal contamination and Microcystis in drinking-water sources of rural Cambodia using PCR and culture-based methods

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Rural communities within low-income countries frequently rely on a range of drinking-water sources, and each water source varies in its potential for biological contamination. The extent and source of biological contamination in primary drinking sources within Kien Svay, Kandal, Cambodia, were determined by fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) measurements, 16S rDNA genetic markers for human and bovine fecal Bacteroides, presence of the bloom-forming Microcystis species, and the microcystin toxin mcyD gene marker. Thirteen wells, 11 rain barrels, 10 surface-water sites, and five sediment samples were examined during the dry and wet seasons. Surface water was commonly contaminated with FIB, with up to 1.02 × 105Enterococcus sp., 6.13 × 104E. coli, and 2.91 × 104 total coliforms per 100 mL of water. Human and bovine Bacteroides were detected in 100 and 90% of the surface water samples, respectively. Concentrations of FIB in rain-barrels varied by site, however 91% contained human Bacteroides. Microcystis cells were found in 90% of surface water sites, with many also containing microcystin gene mcyD, representing the first report of microcystin-producing cyanobacteria in surface waters of Cambodia. The study results show that many potential drinking-water sources in Cambodia contain harmful bacterial and algal contaminants, and care should be taken when selecting and monitoring water options.

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