Development of goose- and duck-specific DNA markers to determine sources of Escherichia coli in waterways

Matthew J. Hamilton, Tao Yan, Michael J. Sadowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The contamination of waterways with fecal material is a persistent threat to public health. Identification of the sources of fecal contamination is a vital component for abatement strategies and for determination of total maximum daily loads. While phenotypic and genotypic techniques have been used to determine potential sources of fecal bacteria in surface waters, most methods require construction of large known-source libraries, and they often fail to adequately differentiate among environmental isolates originating from different animal sources. In this study, we used pooled genomic tester and driver DNAs in suppression subtractive hybridizations to enrich for host source-specific DNA markers for Escherichia coli originating from locally isolated geese. Seven markers were identified. When used as probes in colony hybridization studies, the combined marker DNAs identified 76% of the goose isolates tested and cross-hybridized, on average, with 5% of the human E. coli strains and with less than 10% of the strains obtained from other animal hosts. In addition, the combined probes identified 73% of the duck isolates examined, suggesting that they may be useful for determining the contribution of waterfowl to fecal contamination. However, the hybridization probes reacted mainly with E. coli isolates obtained from geese in the upper midwestern United States, indicating that there is regional specificity of the markers identified. Coupled with high-throughput, automated macro- and microarray screening, these markers may provide a quantitative, cost-effective, and accurate library-independent method for determining the sources of genetically diverse E. coli strains for use in source-tracking studies. However, future efforts to generate DNA markers specific for E. coli must include isolates obtained from geographically diverse animal hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4012-4019
Number of pages8
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


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