Escherichia coli Toxin and Attachment Genes in Sand at Great Lakes Recreational Beaches

Leah M Bauer, Elizabeth Wheeler Alm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends density thresholds for the fecal indicator organism, Escherichia coli, in order to ensure the safety of recreational waters. A number of studies published over the past ten years indicate that E. coli is encountered frequently in sand at recreational beaches. While a majority of the sand-associated E. coli may be commensal or environmental strains, the potential for pathogenic strains of E. coli to be present exists. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the presence of attachment and virulence genes associated with enteropathogenic and enterohemorrhagic strains of E. coli (EPEC and EHEC) in populations of E. coli recovered from swash zone sand from seven recreational beaches along Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair in eastern Michigan, USA. Genes coding for attachment proteins in EPEC and EHEC were very prevalent in sand E. coli, but genes coding for toxin genes were uncommon. The paucity of genes associated with E. coli toxins suggests that the EPEC and EHEC pathotypes are not common in sand; however, the high prevalence of genes associated with attachment in E. coli pathotypes suggests that these genes are being retained within the beach sand E. coli population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-133
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Volume38
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012

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