Tracking the sources of Leptospira and nutrient flows in two urban watersheds of Puerto Rico

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Environmental Monitoring and Assessment


This study investigated the relationship between nutrient levels, source of fecal contamination, and pathogenic Leptospira in Puerto Rico’s northern coast and San Juan Bay Estuary (SJBE) aquatic ecosystems. Microbial source tracking (MST) was also used to investigate the connections between sources of feces contamination and the presence of Leptospira. Eighty-seven water samples were collected during the June (n=44) and August (n=43) in 2020. To quantify phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations, standard USEPA protocols were utilized, specifically Methods 365.4 for total and dissolved phosphorus, 351.2 for total Kjeldahl nitrogen and ammonium, and 353.2 for nitrate. Lipl32 gene-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was used to detect the presence of Leptospira. Human (HF183), canine (BacCan-UCD), and equine (HoF597) MST assays were utilized to trace the origins of fecal contamination. Forty one percent of the locations exceeded Puerto Rico’s authorized total phosphorus limit of 160 g L−1, while 34% exceeded the total nitrogen limit of 1700 g L−1. Nearly half of the streams examined are affected by eutrophication. The MST analysis identified human and canine feces as the most prevalent contaminants, affecting approximately 50% of the sites. In addition, Leptospira was detected in 32% of the June samples. There was a significant correlation (r = 0.79) between the incidence of pathogenic Leptospira and the human bacterial marker (HF183). This study illuminates the central role of anthropogenic inputs in nutrient enrichment and pathogen proliferation in Puerto Rico’s aquatic ecosystems.


Biological and Environmental Sciences

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