Traditionally, the use of enterococci has been recommended as the fecal indicator bacteria of choice for testing marine recreational water quality, and prior studies have shown that bathers shed large numbers of enterococci into the water. The current study expands upon prior research by evaluating shedding from both toddlers and adults, and by the expansion of measurements to include enterococci shedding via three different methods (membrane filter (MF), chromogenic substrate (CS), and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR)) and shedding of alternative fecal indicator bacteria (Bacteroidales human markers UCD and HF8 via qPCR). Two sets of experiments were conducted. The first experiment consisted of two groups of 10 adults who bathed together in a large pool. The second study consisted of 14 toddlers who bathed individually in a small pool which allowed for sand recovery. Sand recovery was used to estimate the amount of sand transported on the bodies of toddlers and to estimate the number of fecal indicator bacteria released from this sand. The numbers of estimated enterococci shed per adult ranged from 1.8×104 to 2.8×106 CFU, from 1.9×103 to 4.5×106 MPN, and from 3.8×105 to 5.5×106 GEU based on the MF, CS, and qPCR methods, respectively. The estimated numbers of Bacteroidales human markers ranged from 1.8×104 to 1.3×106 for UCD, and ranged from the below detection limit to 1.6×105 for HF8. The estimated amount of sand transported per toddler (n=14) into the water column after sand exposure was 8±6 g on average. When normalizing the numbers of enterococci shed from toddlers via sand by the 3.9 body-surface area ratio, the differences between toddlers and adults were insignificant. Contributions of sands to the total enterococci (MF) shed per toddler was 3.7 ±4.4% on average. Although shedding via beach sand may contribute a small fraction of the microbial load during initial bathing, it may have a significant role if bathers go to water repetitively after sand exposure.
Keywords: bather shedding, enterococci, Bacteroidales, beach sand