Persistence of bacterial pathogens, antibiotic resistance genes, and enterococci in tidal creek tributaries

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Environmental Pollution


Intertidal creeks form the primary hydrologic link between estuaries and land-based activities on barrier islands. Fecal indicators Enterococcus spp. (Entero1), pathogens Shigella spp. (ipaH), Salmonella spp. (invA), E. coli of EHEC/EPEC groups (eaeA), E. coli of EAEC, EIEC, and UPEC groups (set1B), E. coli of STEC group (stx1); and tetracycline resistance genes (tet(B), tet(C), tet(D), tet(E), tet(K), tet(Q), tet(W), and tet(X); TRG) were detected in the headwater of Oakdale Creek (Sapelo Island, GA) receiving runoffs from Hog Hammock village. Excavation of drainage ditches around the village caused a high increase in the incidence of the above determinants. Water samples were collected from the headwater, transferred to diffusion chambers, submersed in the headwater, saltmarsh, and mouth of the creek; and the determinants were monitored for 3 winter months. With some exceptions, their persistence decreased in order headwater > saltmarsh > mouth. Genes associated with Enterococcus spp. were the most persistent at all the sites, following in the headwater with determinants for Salmonella spp. and E. coli of EAEC, EIEC, and UPEC groups. In the mouth, the most persistent gene was eaeA indicating EHEC, EPEC, and STEC. Tet(B) and tet(C) persisted the longest in headwater and saltmarsh. No TRG persisted after 11 days in the mouth. Most determinants revealed correlations with temperature and pH, and inverse correlations with dissolved oxygen. Decay rates of the above determinants varied in the range of −0.02 to −0.81/day, and were up to 40 folds higher in the saltmarsh and mouth than in the headwater. Our data demonstrated that water parameters could to some extent predict a general trend in the fate of virulence and antibiotic resistance determinants in tidal creek tributaries but strongly suggested that their persistence in these tributaries cannot be predicted from that of enterococci, or extrapolated from one biological contaminant to another.


Biological and Environmental Sciences

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