Pathogenic Escherichia coli Found in Sewage Treatment Plants and Environmental Waters
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We previously demonstrated that some Escherichia coli strains with uropathogenic properties survived treatment stages of sewage treatment plants (STPs), suggesting that they may be released into the environment. We investigated the presence of such strains in the surrounding environmental waters of four STPs from which these persistent strains were isolated. In all, 264 E. coli isolates were collected from 129 receiving water sites in a 20-km radius surrounding STPs. We also included 93 E. coli strains collected from 18 animal species for comparison. Isolates were typed using a high-resolution biochemical fingerprinting method (the PhPlate system), and grouped into common (C) types. One hundred forty-seven (56%) environmental isolates were identical to strains found in STPs' final effluents. Of these, 140 (95%) carried virulence genes (VGs) associated with intestinal pathogenic E. coli (IPEC) or uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) and were found in a variety of sites within areas sampled. Of the remaining 117 environmental strains not identical to STP strains, 105 belonged to 18 C types and 102 of them carried VGs found among IPEC or UPEC strains. These strains belonged mainly to phylogenetic groups A (A0 and A1) and B1 and to a lesser extent B2(2), B2(3), D1, and D2. Eight of 18 environmental C types, comprising 50 isolates, were also identical to bird strains. The presence of a high percentage of environmental E. coli in waters near STPs carrying VGs associated with IPEC and UPEC suggests that they may have derived from STP effluents and other nonpoint sources.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
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Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified