Human Faecal Sourcing

Species-specific bacteria present in faecal matter are targeted to track human and other animal faecal contamination in recreational waterways.

Human Faecal Sourcing

Managers of recreational waterways are increasingly concerned with harmful health risks associated with human faecal contamination of waterways. Bacteroides-Prevotella spp. is an abundant group of bacteria living in the gut of all warm blooded animals and is therefore present in their faeces. The bacteria are species-specific and therefore can be used as a diagnostic signature for the origin of faecal contamination i.e. human faecal contamination versus other animals such as dogs, ruminant, pigs and birds. These other animals may also be important contributors to urban and rural water quality problems.

We have been working in collaboration with The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project Authority to develop robust protocols for the assessment and discrimination of not only human Bacteroides sp. but also dog, ruminant, seagull and duck sources of contamination. We have developed robust quality control indices and have tested the sensitivity and specificity of these assays in local populations by quantifying amplification in target and non-target species from within Victoria. We are also continuing to develop additional species-specific markers.

For more information, please contact Dr Bree Tillett bree.tillett@unimelb.edu.au.

Passive samplers
Dr Bree Tillett analysing results of genetic identification and quantification of gut bateria found in recreational waterways.