Pinpointing Water Pollution

Pollution Sources

University of Florida researchers have developed new DNA tests to determine causes of pollution in lakes, streams, bays and underground water supplies.

"Until now, it has been difficult to determine if germs in water are coming from human or animal sources," said Mark Tamplin, a food safety expert with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Our new tests are 99.9 percent reliable."

The tests capitalize on the fact that DNA patterns of human E. cold bacteria are different from those in animals and that many E. cold in humans have become resistant to antibiotics.

"If water contains E. cold from humans, there's a potential for diseases such as salmonella and hepatitis to be present," Tamplin said. "If there are no E. cold from humans, there's little chance of the water transmitting human disease. Our new tests can help prioritize where to put money."

The UF tests were first used in White County in north central Indiana to help settle an argument about whether septic tanks, wildlife or pig farms are causing dangerously high E. cold counts around the Lake Shafer resort area.

Tamplin is developing a contract with Broward County to test the effects of dog feces in waterways.

Reprinted from the University of Florida Focus, University Of Florida Alumni Association, PO Box 14425, Gainesville, Florida 32604-2425.

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