The use of antibiotic resistance profiling as a means of tracing sources of fecal contamination in source waters

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Fecal contamination of source waters and its associated intestinal pathogens continues to pose risks to public health although the extent and effect of microbial contamination of source waters gets very little attention in designing treatment plants in most developing countries. Coliform counts give an indication of the overall bacterial contamination of water and thus its safety for human consumption. However, their presence fails to provide information about the source of fecal contamination which is vital to managing fecal contamination problems in surface waters. This study explored the use of multiple antibiotic resistance (MAR) indexing as means of differentiating E. coli isolates from different sources. A total of 322 E. coli isolates were obtained from municipal wastewater and from fecal samples from domestic and wild animals. Conventional culture methods and standard chemical and biochemical tests were used for isolation and identification of E. coli. Isolates were assayed against 10 antibiotics using the micro-dilution technique. The results obtained generated antibiotic resistance profiles which were used to statistically group the isolates into different subsets. Correct source classification was obtained for 60% of human-derived and 95% non-human-derived E. coli respectively. These results indicate the validity of the usefulness of MAR indexing as a method of bacterial source tracking.

Keywords: fecal coliforms, multiple antibiotic resistance indexing, pollution indicator microorganisms, public health, water quality

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