Using Multiple Antibiotic Resistance and Land use Characteristics to Determine Sources of Fecal Coliform Bacterial Pollutiion
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Multiple Antibiotic Resistance (MAR) analysis and regression modeling techniques were used to identify surface water areas impacted by fecal pollution from human sources, and to determine the effects of land use on fecal pollution in Murrells Inlet, a small, urbanized, high-salinity estuary located between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, South Carolina. MAR analysis was performed to identify areas in the estuary that are impacted by human-source fecal pollution. Additionally, regression analysis was performed to determine if an association exists between land use and fecal coliform densities over the ten-year period from 1989 to 1998. Land-use variables were derived using Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques and were used in the regression analysis.
MAR analyses were conducted by comparing the frequency and patterns of antibiotic resistance found in Escherichia coli isolates derived from surface water samples and from sewage sources in the Murrells Inlet sewage collection system. The MAR results suggest that the majority of the fecal pollution detected in the Murrells Inlet estuary may be from non-human sources, including fecal coliforms isolated from areas in close proximity to high densities of active septic tanks.
A MAR Index, which measures the frequency of antibiotic resistance, was calculated for each of twenty-three water samples and nine sewage samples. The antibiotic resistance pattern comparisons were performed using cluster analysis. Although the MAR indices indicated that several surface water sites had potential human-source contamination, the cluster analysis suggests that only one sampling site had MAR patterns that were similar to those found in the sewage samples. This site was in close proximity to several large pleasure boats as well as a sewage collection system lift station, but was not near areas with active septic tanks. The results of the regression analysis also suggest that sewage sources and rainfall runoff from urbanized areas may contribute to fecal pollution in the estuary.
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