To address the issue of human sewage reaching corals along the main reef of the Florida Keys, samples were collected from surface water, groundwater and coral [surface mucopolysaccharide layers (SML)] along a 10 km transect near Key Largo, FL. Samples were collected semi-annually between July 2003 and September 2005 and processed for faecal indicator bacteria (faecal coliform bacteria, enterococci and Clostridium perfringens) and human-specific enteric viruses (enterovirus RNA and adenovirus DNA) by (RT)-nested polymerase chain reaction. Faecal indicator bacteria concentrations were generally higher nearshore and in the coral SML. Enteric viruses were evenly distributed across the transect stations. Adenoviruses were detected in 37 of 75 samples collected (49.3%) whereas enteroviruses were only found in 8 of 75 samples (10.7%). Both viruses were detected twice as frequently in coral compared with surface water or groundwater. Offshore, viruses were most likely to be found in groundwater, especially during the wet summer season. These data suggest that polluted groundwater may be moving to the outer reef environment in the Florida Keys.
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