Recommendations for microbial source tracking: Lessons from a methods comparison study

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The methods comparison study described in accompanying manuscripts demonstrated the potential value of microbial source tracking (MST) techniques, but also identified a need for method refinement. This paper provides three classes of recommendations to improve MST technology: optimization, development and evaluation. Optimization recommendations focus on library-dependent methods and include improved selection of restriction enzymes or antibiotics, better definition of appropriate library size, selection of target species and choice of statistical pattern-matching algorithms. Methods development recommendations focus on identifying new genomic targets and quantification procedures for library independent methods. Longer-term methods development recommendations include integration of microarrays and other direct pathogen detection technology with MST. Studies defining host specificity and population dynamics should aid selection of target species during methods development. Evaluation recommendations include enhancements that should be incorporated into future methods comparison studies, along with studies to assess the value of MST results for risk characterization.

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