Covariation and photoinactivation of traditional and novel indicator organisms and human viruses at a sewage-impacted marine beach

Alexandria B. Boehm, Kevan M. Yamahara, David C. Love, Britt M. Peterson, Kristopher Mcneill, Kara L. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Sunlight modulates concentrations of Escherichia coli and enterococci in marine waters. However, the mechanism of photoinactivation is poorly understood. Additionally, little is known about photo in activation of other fecal indicators and human viruses in recreational waters. We sampled nearshore waters at Avalon Beach, California hourly for 72 h for reactive oxygen species (ROS), traditional indicator bacteria (E. coli and enterococci, and QPCR-based detection of enterococci), F+ (DNA and RNA) and somatic coliphages, the human-specific marker in Bacteroidales (HF marker), human enterovirus, and human adenovirus. E. coli and enterococci (regardless of measurement technique) covaried with each other and the coliphages suggesting similar sources and fates. The occurrence of the HF and enterovirus markers was correlated, but their occurrencewasnot positively correlated with the other indicators. Lower concentrations or occurrence of all microbes, excluding the HF and enterovirus markers, were observed during sunlit as opposed to dark hours, pointing to the importance of photoinactivation. Empirical-deterministic models for a subset of microbial indicators were created to determine field-relevant sunlight inactivation rates while accounting for time dependent sources and sinks. Photoinactivation rates of enterococci and E. coli, enterococci measured by QPCR, and somatic coliphage were estimated at 7, 6, 3, and 28 d-1 I-1, respectively, where I is UVB intensity inW/m2. Average H2O2 was 183 nM and the maximum singlet oxygen steady state concentration was 6.6 fM. Given the clarity of the water, direct genomic damage of bacteria and coliphage, as well as indirect endogenous damage of bacteria, were likely the most important inactivation mechanisms, but we cannot rule out a contribution by indirect mechanisms involving the H 2O2 and singlet oxygen produced exogenously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8046-8052
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009


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