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Quantification of host-specific Bacteroides–Prevotella 16S rRNA genetic markers for assessment of fecal pollution in freshwater


Based on the comparative 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis of fecal DNAs, we identified one human-, three cow-, and two pig-specific Bacteroides–Prevotella 16S rRNA genetic markers, designed host-specific real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR) primer sets, and successfully developed real-time PCR assay to quantify the fecal contamination derived from human, cow, and pig in natural river samples. The specificity of each newly designed host-specific primer pair was evaluated on fecal DNAs extracted from these host feces. All three cow-specific and two pig-specific primer sets amplified only target fecal DNAs (in the orders of 9–11 log10 copies per gram of wet feces), showing high host specificity. This real-time PCR assay was then applied to the river water samples with different fecal contamination sources and levels. It was confirmed that this assay could sufficiently discriminate and quantify human, cow, and pig fecal contamination. There was a moderate level of correlation between the Bacteroides–Prevotella group-specific 16S rRNA gene markers with fecal coliforms (r 2 = 0.49), whereas no significant correlation was found between the human-specific Bacteroides 16S rRNA gene with total and fecal coliforms. Using a simple filtration method, the minimum detection limits of this assay were in the range of 50–800 copies/100 ml. With a combined sample processing and analysis time of less than 8 h, this real-time PCR assay is useful for monitoring or identifying spatial and temporal distributions of host-specific fecal contaminations in natural water environments.

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This work was partially supported by a grant-in-aid (13650593) for developmental scientific research from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Japan.

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Correspondence to Satoshi Okabe.

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Okabe, S., Okayama, N., Savichtcheva, O. et al. Quantification of host-specific Bacteroides–Prevotella 16S rRNA genetic markers for assessment of fecal pollution in freshwater. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 74, 890–901 (2007).

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  • Fecal pollution
  • Bacteroides–Prevotella 16S rRNA genetic markers