Recovery of Salmonella from biofilms in a headwater spring ecosystem

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Salmonellae are pathogenic bacteria often detected in waters impacted by human or animal wastes. In order to assess the fate of salmonellae in supposedly pristine environments, water and natural biofilm samples along with snails (Tarebia granifera) and crayfish (Procambarus clarkia) were collected before and up to 7 days following four precipitation events from sites within the headwater springs of Spring Lake, San Marcos, TX. The samples were analyzed for the presence of salmonellae by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) after semi-selective enrichment. Salmonellae were detected in one water sample directly after precipitation only, while detection in ten biofilm and two crayfish samples was not related to precipitation. Salmonellae were not detected in snails. Characterization of isolates by rep-PCR revealed shared profiles in water and biofilm samples, biofilm and crayfish samples, and biofilm samples collected 23 days apart. These results suggest that salmonellae are infrequently washed into this aquatic ecosystem during precipitation runoff and can potentially take up residency in biofilms which can help facilitate subsequent long-term persistence and eventual transfer through the food chain.

Keywords: contamination, invA gene, PCR, runoff, salmonellae

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