Development and validation of novel methods for microbial source tracking based on Escherichia coli as an indicator of water quality

Sheludchenko, Maxim (2011) Development and validation of novel methods for microbial source tracking based on Escherichia coli as an indicator of water quality. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Microbial pollution in water periodically affects human health in Australia, particularly in times of drought and flood. There is an increasing need for the control of waterborn microbial pathogens. Methods, allowing the determination of the origin of faecal contamination in water, are generally referred to as Microbial Source Tracking (MST). Various approaches have been evaluated as indicatorsof microbial pathogens in water samples, including detection of different microorganisms and various host-specific markers. However, until today there have been no universal MST methods that could reliably determine the source (human or animal) of faecal contamination. Therefore, the use of multiple approaches is frequently advised. MST is currently recognised as a research tool, rather than something to be included in routine practices. The main focus of this research was to develop novel and universally applicable methods to meet the demands for MST methods in routine testing of water samples. Escherichia coli was chosen initially as the object organism for our studies as, historically and globally, it is the standard indicator of microbial contamination in water. In this thesis, three approaches are described: single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) screening using high resolution melt analysis (HRMA) methods and phage detection development based on CRISPR types. The advantage of the combination SNP genotyping and CRISPR genes has been discussed in this study. For the first time, a highly discriminatory single nucleotide polymorphism interrogation of E. coli population was applied to identify the host-specific cluster. Six human and one animal-specific SNP profile were revealed. SNP genotyping was successfully applied in the field investigations of the Coomera watershed, South-East Queensland, Australia. Four human profiles [11], [29], [32] and [45] and animal specific SNP profile [7] were detected in water. Two human-specific profiles [29] and [11] were found to be prevalent in the samples over a time period of years. The rainfall (24 and 72 hours), tide height and time, general land use (rural, suburban), seasons, distance from the river mouth and salinity show a lack of relashionship with the diversity of SNP profiles present in the Coomera watershed (p values > 0.05). Nevertheless, SNP genotyping method is able to identify and distinquish between human- and non-human specific E. coli isolates in water sources within one day. In some samples, only mixed profiles were detected. To further investigate host-specificity in these mixed profiles CRISPR screening protocol was developed, to be used on the set of E. coli, previously analysed for SNP profiles. CRISPR loci, which are the pattern of previous DNA coliphages attacks, were considered to be a promising tool for detecting host-specific markers in E. coli. Spacers in CRISPR loci could also reveal the dynamics of virulence in E. coli as well in other pathogens in water. Despite the fact that host-specificity was not observed in the set of E. coli analysed, CRISPR alleles were shown to be useful in detection of the geographical site of sources. HRMA allows determination of ‘different’ and ‘same’ CRISPR alleles and can be introduced in water monitoring as a cost-effective and rapid method. Overall, we show that the identified human specific SNP profiles [11], [29], [32] and [45] can be useful as marker genotypes globally for identification of human faecal contamination in water. Developed in the current study, the SNP typing approach can be used in water monitoring laboratories as an inexpensive, high-throughput and easy adapted protocol. The unique approach based on E. coli spacers for the search for unknown phage was developed to examine the host-specifity in phage sequences. Preliminary experiments on the recombinant plasmids showed the possibility of using this method for recovering phage sequences. Future studies will determine the host-specificity of DNA phage genotyping as soon as first reliable sequences can be acquired. No doubt, only implication of multiple approaches in MST will allow identification of the character of microbial contamination with higher confidence and readability.

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ID Code: 46703
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Hargreaves, Megan & Huygens, Flavia
Keywords: microbial source tracking, E. coli, SNP, CRISPR, faecal contamination, bacteriophage
Divisions: Past > Schools > Cell & Molecular Biosciences
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Oct 2011 04:45
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 05:03

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