Distribution and abundance of human-specific Bacteroides and relation to traditional indicators in an urban tropical catchment

Authors

  • J. P. Nshimyimana,

    1. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology - CENSAM 1 CREATE Way, Singapore, Singapore
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  • E. Ekklesia,

    1. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore
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  • P. Shanahan,

    1. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
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  • L. H. C. Chua,

    1. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore
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  • J. R. Thompson

    Corresponding author
    1. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
    • Correspondence

      Janelle R. Thompson, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 15 Vassar Street 48-331, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

      E-mail: jthompson@mit.edu

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Abstract

Aims

The study goals were to determine the relationship between faecal indicator bacteria (FIB), the HF183 marker and land use, and the phylogenetic diversity of HF183 marker sequences in a tropical urban watershed.

Methods and Results

Total coliforms, Escherichia coli, and HF183 were quantified in 81 samples categorized as undeveloped, residential and horticultural from the Kranji Reservoir and Catchment in Singapore. Quantitative-PCR for HF183 followed by analysis of variance indicated that horticultural areas had significantly higher geometric means for marker levels (4·3 × 104 HF183-GE 100 ml−1) than nonhorticultural areas (3·07 × 103 HF183-GE 100 ml−1). E. coli and HF183 were moderately correlated in horticultural areas (R = 0·59, P = 0·0077), but not elsewhere in the catchment. Initial upstream surveys of candidate sources revealed elevated HF183 in a wastewater treatment effluent but not in aquaculture ponds. The HF183 marker was cloned, sequenced and determined by phylogenetic analysis to match the original marker description.

Conclusion

We show that quantification of the HF183 marker is a useful tool for mapping the spatial distribution and potential sources of human sewage contamination in tropical environments such as Singapore.

Significance and Impact

A major challenge for assessment of water quality in tropical environments is the natural occurrence and nonconservative behaviour of FIB. The HF183 marker has been employed in temperate environments as an alternative indicator for human sewage contamination. Our study supports the use of the HF183 marker as an indicator for human sewage in Singapore and motivates further work to determine HF183 marker levels that correspond to public health risk in tropical environments.

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