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Keywords:

  • Escherichia coli ;
  • Estuarine and river waters;
  • F-specific RNA bacteriophages;
  • host-associated Bacteroidales markers;
  • microbial source tracking;
  • shellfish

Abstract

Aims

The aim of this study was to identify the origin of faecal pollution impacting the Elorn estuary (Brittany, France) by applying microbial source tracking (MST) markers in both oysters and estuarine waters.

Methods and Results

The MST markers used were as follows: (i) human-, ruminant- and pig-associated Bacteroidales markers by real-time PCR and (ii) human genogroup II and animal genogroup I of F-specific RNA bacteriophages (FRNAPH) by culture/genotyping and by direct real-time reverse-transcriptase PCR. The higher occurrence of the human genogroup II of F-specific RNA bacteriophages using a culture/genotyping method, and human-associated Bacteroidales marker by real-time PCR, allowed the identification of human faecal contamination as the predominant source of contamination in oysters (total of 18 oyster batches tested) and waters (total of 24 water samples tested). The importance of using the intravalvular liquids instead of digestive tissues, when applying host-associated Bacteroidales markers in oysters, was also revealed.

Conclusions

This study has shown that the application of a MST toolbox of diverse bacterial and viral methods can provide multiple lines of evidence to identify the predominant source of faecal contamination in shellfish from an estuarine environment.

Significance and Impact of the Study

Application of this MST toolbox is a useful approach to understand the origin of faecal contamination in shellfish harvesting areas in an estuarine setting.