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1.  Potential Human Pathogenic Bacteria in a Mixed Urban Watershed as Revealed by Pyrosequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79490.
Current microbial source tracking (MST) methods for water depend on testing for fecal indicator bacterial counts or specific marker gene sequences to identify fecal contamination where potential human pathogenic bacteria could be present. In this study, we applied 454 high-throughput pyrosequencing to identify bacterial pathogen DNA sequences, including those not traditionally monitored by MST and correlated their abundances to specific sources of contamination such as urban runoff and agricultural runoff from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), recreation park area, waste-water treatment plants, and natural sites with little or no human activities. Samples for pyrosequencing were surface water, and sediment collected from 19 sites. A total of 12,959 16S rRNA gene sequences with average length of ≤400 bp were obtained, and were assigned to corresponding taxonomic ranks using ribosomal database project (RDP), Classifier and Greengenes databases. The percent of total potential pathogens were highest in urban runoff water (7.94%), agricultural runoff sediment (6.52%), and Prado Park sediment (6.00%), respectively. Although the numbers of DNA sequence tags from pyrosequencing were very high for the natural site, corresponding percent potential pathogens were very low (3.78–4.08%). Most of the potential pathogenic bacterial sequences identified were from three major phyla, namely, Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Firmicutes. The use of deep sequencing may provide improved and faster methods for the identification of pathogen sources in most watersheds so that better risk assessment methods may be developed to enhance public health.
PMCID: PMC3835799  PMID: 24278139
2.  Assimilable Organic Carbon (AOC) in Soil Water Extracts Using Vibrio harveyi BB721 and Its Implication for Microbial Biomass 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e28519.
Assimilable organic carbon (AOC) is commonly used to measure the growth potential of microorganisms in water, but has not yet been investigated for measuring microbial growth potential in soils. In this study, a simple, rapid, and non-growth based assay to determine AOC in soil was developed using a naturally occurring luminous strain Vibrio harveyi BB721 to determine the fraction of low molecular weight organic carbon in soil water extract. Calibration of the assay was achieved by measuring the luminescence intensity of starved V. harveyi BB721 cells in the late exponential phase with a concentration range from 0 to 800 µg l−1 glucose (equivalent to 0–16.0 mg glucose C kg−1 soil) with the detection limit of 10 µg l−1 equivalent to 0.20 mg glucose C kg−1 soil. Results showed that bioluminescence was proportional to the concentration of glucose added to soil. The luminescence intensity of the cells was highly pH dependent and the optimal pH was about 7.0. The average AOC concentration in 32 soils tested was 2.9±2.2 mg glucose C kg−1. Our data showed that AOC levels in soil water extracts were significantly correlated (P<0.05) with microbial biomass determined as microbial biomass carbon, indicating that the AOC concentrations determined by the method developed might be a good indicator of soil microbial biomass. Our findings provide a new approach that may be used to determine AOC in environmental samples using a non-growth bioluminescence based assay. Understanding the levels of AOC in soil water extract provides new insights into our ability to estimate the most available carbon pool to bacteria in soil that may be easily assimilated into cells for many metabolic processes and suggest possible the links between AOC, microbial regrowth potential, and microbial biomass in soils.
PMCID: PMC3322128  PMID: 22679477
3.  Microbiological Evaluation of Water Quality from Urban Watersheds for Domestic Water Supply Improvement  
Agricultural and urban runoffs may be major sources of pollution of water bodies and major sources of bacteria affecting the quality of drinking water. Of the different pathways by which bacterial pathogens can enter drinking water, this one has received little attention to date; that is, because soils are often considered to be near perfect filters for the transport of bacterial pathogens through the subsoil to groundwater. The goals of this study were to determine the distribution, diversity, and antimicrobial resistance of pathogenic Escherichia coli isolates from low flowing river water and sediment with inputs from different sources before water is discharged into ground water and to compare microbial contamination in water and sediment at different sampling sites. Water and sediment samples were collected from 19 locations throughout the watershed for the isolation of pathogenic E. coli. Heterotrophic plate counts and E. coli were also determined after running tertiary treated water through two tanks containing aquifer sand material. Presumptive pathogenic E. coli isolates were obtained and characterized for virulent factors and antimicrobial resistance. None of the isolates was confirmed as Shiga toxin E. coli (STEC), but as others, such as enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). Pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) was used to show the diversity E. coli populations from different sources throughout the watershed. Seventy six percent of the isolates from urban sources exhibited resistance to more than one antimicrobial agent. A subsequent filtration experiment after water has gone through filtration tanks containing aquifer sand material showed that there was a 1 to 2 log reduction in E. coli in aquifer sand tank. Our data showed multiple strains of E. coli without virulence attributes, but with high distribution of resistant phenotypes. Therefore, the occurrence of E. coli with multiple resistances in the environment is a matter of great concern due to possible transfer of resistant genes from nonpathogenic to pathogenic strains that may result in increased duration and severity of morbidity.
PMCID: PMC3290987  PMID: 22408583
pathogenic Escherichia coli; indicator bacteria; surface water; sediment; contamination; watershed
4.  Persistence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Its Mutants in Soils 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23191.
The persistence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 in the environment poses a serious threat to public health. However, the role of Shiga toxins and other virulence factors in the survival of E. coli O157:H7 is poorly defined. The aim of this study was to determine if the virulence factors, stx1, stx2, stx1–2, and eae in E. coli O157:H7 EDL933 play any significant role in the growth of this pathogen in rich media and in soils. Isogenic deletion mutants that were missing one of four virulence factors, stx1, stx2, stx1–2, and eae in E. coli O157:H7 EDL933 were constructed, and their growth in rich media and survival in soils with distinct texture and chemistry were characterized. The survival data were successfully analyzed using Double Weibull model, and the modeling parameters of the mutant strains were not significantly different from those of the wild type. The calculated Td (time needed to reach the detection limit, 100 CFU/g soil) for loamy sand, sandy loam, and silty clay was 32, 80, and 110 days, respectively. It was also found that Td was positively correlated with soil structure (e.g. clay content), and soil chemistry (e.g. total nitrogen, total carbon, and water extractable organic carbon). The results of this study showed that the possession of Shiga toxins and intimin in E. coli O157:H7 might not play any important role in its survival in soils. The double deletion mutant of E. coli O157:H7 (stx1−stx2−) may be a good substitute to use for the investigation of transport, fate, and survival of E. coli O157:H7 in the environment where the use of pathogenic strains are prohibited by law since the mutants showed the same characteristics in both culture media and environmental samples.
PMCID: PMC3149627  PMID: 21826238
5.  Commensal Effect of Pectate Lyases Secreted from Dickeya dadantii on Proliferation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 EDL933 on Lettuce Leaves ▿  
The outbreaks caused by enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7 on leafy greens have raised serious and immediate food safety concerns. It has been suggested that several phytopathogens aid in the persistence and proliferation of the human enteropathogens in the phyllosphere. In this work, we examined the influence of virulence mechanisms of Dickeya dadantii 3937, a broad-host-range phytopathogen, on the proliferation of the human pathogen E. coli O157:H7 EDL933 (EDL933) on postharvest lettuce by coinoculation of EDL933 with D. dadantii 3937 derivatives that have mutations in virulence-related genes. A type II secretion system (T2SS)-deficient mutant of D. dadantii 3937, A1919 (ΔoutC), lost the capability to promote the multiplication of EDL933, whereas Ech159 (ΔrpoS), a stress-responsive σ factor RpoS-deficient mutant, increased EDL933 proliferation on lettuce leaves. A spectrophotometric enzyme activity assay revealed that A1919 (ΔoutC) was completely deficient in the secretion of pectate lyases (Pels), which play a major role in plant tissue maceration. In contrast to A1919 (ΔoutC), Ech159 (ΔrpoS) showed more than 2-fold-greater Pel activity than the wild-type D. dadantii 3937. Increased expression of pelD (encodes an endo-pectate lyase) was observed in Ech159 (ΔrpoS) in planta. These results suggest that the pectinolytic activity of D. dadantii 3937 is the dominant determinant of enhanced EDL933 proliferation on the lettuce leaves. In addition, RpoS, the general stress response σ factor involved in cell survival in suboptimal conditions, plays a role in EDL933 proliferation by controlling the production of pectate lyases in D. dadantii 3937.
PMCID: PMC3019694  PMID: 21075884
6.  Genetic Diversity and Antimicrobial Resistance of Escherichia coli from Human and Animal Sources Uncovers Multiple Resistances from Human Sources 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20819.
Escherichia coli are widely used as indicators of fecal contamination, and in some cases to identify host sources of fecal contamination in surface water. Prevalence, genetic diversity and antimicrobial susceptibility were determined for 600 generic E. coli isolates obtained from surface water and sediment from creeks and channels along the middle Santa Ana River (MSAR) watershed of southern California, USA, after a 12 month study. Evaluation of E. coli populations along the creeks and channels showed that E. coli were more prevalent in sediment compared to surface water. E. coli populations were not significantly different (P = 0.05) between urban runoff sources and agricultural sources, however, E. coli genotypes determined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) were less diverse in the agricultural sources than in urban runoff sources. PFGE also showed that E. coli populations in surface water were more diverse than in the sediment, suggesting isolates in sediment may be dominated by clonal populations.Twenty four percent (144 isolates) of the 600 isolates exhibited resistance to more than one antimicrobial agent. Most multiple resistances were associated with inputs from urban runoff and involved the antimicrobials rifampicin, tetracycline, and erythromycin. The occurrence of a greater number of E. coli with multiple antibiotic resistances from urban runoff sources than agricultural sources in this watershed provides useful evidence in planning strategies for water quality management and public health protection.
PMCID: PMC3110821  PMID: 21687635
7.  Quantification of Persistence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Contrasting Soils 
Persistence of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 in the environment is a major concern to vegetable and fruit growers where farms and livestock production are in close proximity. The objectives were to determine the effects of preplant fumigation treatment on the survival of E. coli O157:H7 in two soils and the effects of indigenous bacterial populations on the survival of this pathogen. Real-time PCR and plate counts were used to quantify the survival of E. coli O157:H7 in two contrasting soils after fumigation with methyl bromide (MeBr) and methyl iodide (MeI). Ten days after fumigation, E. coli O157:H7 counts were significantly lower (P = .0001) in fumigated soils than in the non-fumigated. Direct comparison between MeBr and MeI within each soil indicated that these two fumigants showed similar impacts on E. coli O157:H7 survival. Microbial species diversity as determined by DGGE was significantly higher in clay soil than sandy soil and this resulted in higher initial decline in population in clay soil than in sandy soil. This study shows that if soil is contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, fumigation alone may not eliminate the pathogen, but may cause decrease in microbial diversity which may enhance the survival of the pathogen.
PMCID: PMC2943103  PMID: 20871863
8.  Global Effect of Indole-3-Acetic Acid Biosynthesis on Multiple Virulence Factors of Erwinia chrysanthemi 3937▿  
Production of the plant hormone indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) is widespread among plant-associated microorganisms. The non-gall-forming phytopathogen Erwinia chrysanthemi 3937 (strain Ech3937) possesses iaaM (ASAP16562) and iaaH (ASAP16563) gene homologues. In this work, the null knockout iaaM mutant strain Ech138 was constructed. The IAA production by Ech138 was reduced in M9 minimal medium supplemented with l-tryptophan. Compared with wild-type Ech3937, Ech138 exhibited reduced ability to produce local maceration, but its multiplication in Saintpaulia ionantha was unaffected. The pectate lyase production of Ech138 was diminished. Compared with wild-type Ech3937, the expression levels of an oligogalacturonate lyase gene, ogl, and three endopectate lyase genes, pelD, pelI, and pelL, were reduced in Ech138 as determined by a green fluorescent protein-based fluorescence-activated cell sorting promoter activity assay. In addition, the transcription of type III secretion system (T3SS) genes, dspE (a putative T3SS effector) and hrpN (T3SS harpin), was found to be diminished in the iaaM mutant Ech138. Compared with Ech3937, reduced expression of hrpL (a T3SS alternative sigma factor) and gacA but increased expression of rsmA in Ech138 was also observed, suggesting that the regulation of T3SS and pectate lyase genes by IAA biosynthesis might be partially due to the posttranscriptional regulation of the Gac-Rsm regulatory pathway.
PMCID: PMC1828641  PMID: 17189441
9.  Characterization of Microbial Communities and Composition in Constructed Dairy Wetland Wastewater Effluent 
Constructed wetlands have been recognized as a removal treatment option for high concentrations of contaminants in agricultural waste before land application. The goal of this study was to characterize microbial composition in two constructed wetlands designed to remove contaminants from dairy washwater. Water samples were collected weekly for 11 months from two wetlands to determine the efficiency of the treatment system in removal of chemical contaminants and total and fecal coliforms. The reduction by the treatment was greatest for biological oxygen demand, suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand, nitrate, and coliforms. There was only moderate removal of total nitrogen and phosphorus. Changes in the total bacterial community and ammonia-oxidizing bacterial composition were examined by using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and sequencing of PCR-amplified fragments of the gene carrying the α subunit of the ammonia monooxygenase gene (amoA) recovered from soil samples and DGGE bands. DGGE analysis of wetlands and manure samples revealed that the total bacterial community composition was dominated by bacteria from phylogenetic clusters related to Bacillus, Clostridium, Mycoplasma, Eubacterium, and Proteobacteria originally retrieved from the gastrointestinal tracts of mammals. The population of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria showed a higher percentage of Nitrosospira-like sequences from the wetland samples, while a higher percentage of Nitrosomonas-like sequences from manure, feces, raw washwater, and facultative pond was found. These results show that the wetland system is a natural process dependent upon the development of healthy microbial communities for optimal wastewater treatment.
PMCID: PMC194942  PMID: 12957887
10.  Multiplex Fluorogenic Real-Time PCR for Detection and Quantification of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Dairy Wastewater Wetlands 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2002;68(10):4853-4862.
Surface water and groundwater are continuously used as sources of drinking water in many metropolitan areas of the United States. The quality of water from these sources may be reduced due to increases in contaminants such as Escherichia coli from urban and agricultural runoffs. In this study, a multiplex fluorogenic PCR assay was used to quantify E. coli O157:H7 in soil, manure, cow and calf feces, and dairy wastewater in an artificial wetland. Primers and probes were designed to amplify and quantify the Shiga-like toxin 1 (stx1) and 2 (stx2) genes and the intimin (eae) gene of E. coli O157:H7 in a single reaction. Primer specificity was confirmed with DNA from 33 E. coli O157:H7 and related strains with and without the three genes. A direct correlation was determined between the fluorescence threshold cycle (CT) and the starting quantity of E. coli O157:H7 DNA. A similar correlation was observed between the CT and number of CFU per milliliter used in the PCR assay. A detection limit of 7.9 × 10−5 pg of E. coli O157:H7 DNA ml−1 equivalent to approximately 6.4 × 103 CFU of E. coli O157:H7 ml−1 based on plate counts was determined. Quantification of E. coli O157:H7 in soil, manure, feces, and wastewater was possible when cell numbers were ≥3.5 × 104 CFU g−1. E. coli O157:H7 levels detected in wetland samples decreased by about 2 logs between wetland influents and effluents. The detection limit of the assay in soil was improved to less than 10 CFU g−1 with a 16-h enrichment. These results indicate that the developed PCR assay is suitable for quantitative determination of E. coli O157:H7 in environmental samples and represents a considerable advancement in pathogen quantification in different ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC126415  PMID: 12324331
11.  Impact of Fumigants on Soil Microbial Communities 
Agricultural soils are typically fumigated to provide effective control of nematodes, soilborne pathogens, and weeds in preparation for planting of high-value cash crops. The ability of soil microbial communities to recover after treatment with fumigants was examined using culture-dependent (Biolog) and culture-independent (phospholipid fatty acid [PLFA] analysis and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis [DGGE] of 16S ribosomal DNA [rDNA] fragments amplified directly from soil DNA) approaches. Changes in soil microbial community structure were examined in a microcosm experiment following the application of methyl bromide (MeBr), methyl isothiocyanate, 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), and chloropicrin. Variations among Biolog fingerprints showed that the effect of MeBr on heterotrophic microbial activities was most severe in the first week and that thereafter the effects of MeBr and the other fumigants were expressed at much lower levels. The results of PLFA analysis demonstrated a community shift in all treatments to a community dominated by gram-positive bacterial biomass. Different 16S rDNA profiles from fumigated soils were quantified by analyzing the DGGE band patterns. The Shannon-Weaver index of diversity, H, was calculated for each fumigated soil sample. High diversity indices were maintained between the control soil and the fumigant-treated soils, except for MeBr (H decreased from 1.14 to 0.13). After 12 weeks of incubation, H increased to 0.73 in the MeBr-treated samples. Sequence analysis of clones generated from unique bands showed the presence of taxonomically unique clones that had emerged from the MeBr-treated samples and were dominated by clones closely related to Bacillus spp. and Heliothrix oregonensis. Variations in the data were much higher in the Biolog assay than in the PLFA and DGGE assays, suggesting a high sensitivity of PLFA analysis and DGGE in monitoring the effects of fumigants on soil community composition and structure. Our results indicate that MeBr has the greatest impact on soil microbial communities and that 1,3-D has the least impact.
PMCID: PMC93007  PMID: 11425748

Results 1-11 (11)