This project collaborated with South East Water and focused on elucidating the contribution of human faecal pollution to eutrophication processes in a reservoir site using microbial source tracking (MST) tools. High nutrient inputs into water bodies, such as reservoirs, can result in an increase in algal blooms and costs associated with water treatment. Cyanobacteria (often known as ‘blue-green algae’) can be harmful to human health because of their production of harmful toxins. MST encompasses techniques that aim to distinguish source(s) of faecal contamination in surface and ground waters.
One relatively simple, low-cost and effective technique that has been successfully used to discriminate between human and non-human faecal contamination, involves the detection and enumeration of bacteriophages (viruses) capable of infecting anaerobic bacteria (Bacteroides spp.) present in human waste. Application of this low-cost MST method (Bacteroides GB124 phage method) accompanied the detection and enumeration of widely used molecular MST markers (human-specific (Hubac) and ruminant-specific (RuBac). This comparative approach allowed the efficacy of the methods (in terms of method ‘specificity’ and ‘sensitivity’) to be established (when determining the source(s) of small- scale faecal contributions) and should improve the understanding of the contribution of human faecal inputs on water quality in this reservoir site.
The project ran during 2016 and was a collaboration with South East Water.
The project aimed:
Zones of lysis from bacteriophages capable of infecting human-specific Bacteroides host strain GB124
Dr Sarah Purnell
Dr James Ebdon
Paper to follow on publication
Simon Lohrey – South East Water