Microbial Source Tracking: Methods, Applications, and Case Studies

pp 61-112


Library-Independent Bacterial Source Tracking Methods

  • Stefan WuertzAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis Email author 
  • , Dan Wang
  • , Georg H. Reischer
  • , Andreas H. Farnleitner

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In recent years numerous library-independent methods for microbial source tracking have become available either relying on selective cultivation of source-specific bacteria or, increasingly, on direct detection of source-specific genetic markers. The scientific foundation for the detection of source-specific bacterial populations is discussed and an overview is provided of the methods developed in this field in the last 30 years. Another focus is on potential advantages and drawbacks as well as method performance characteristics in method development, evaluation and application. Unfortunately, few methods have been evaluated and applied beyond the regional geographical scale, making it clear that the global toolbox for bacterial MST is still in the development and evaluation stage. However, recent advances in statistical methods for interpretation of MST results will help account for less than perfect diagnostic sensitivities and specificities, while integrated study design must consider pollution source complexity and dynamics. Numerous successful MST applications have proven the practicality and potential of library-independent bacterial MST methods for the characterization and identification of fecal pollution sources.


Bacterial fecal sourc tracking Cultivation Direct detection Molecular analysis PCR qPCR Bacteroidales