Pathotyping of Escherichia coli isolated from community toilet wastewater and stored drinking water in a slum in Bangladesh

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Abstract

This study investigated the occurrence of Escherichia coli pathotypes in sanitary wastewater and drinking water in a Bangladeshi urban slum and the potential associations between these sources. We examined 621 E. coli isolates from sanitary wastewater and stored drinking water by multiplex PCR and dual-index sequencing, classifying them into eight pathotypes based on 14 virulence genes and additionally evaluating the possession of the human-specific E. coli genetic biomarker H8. The proportions of pathogenic E. coli were significantly different (P < 0·001) between wastewater (18·6%) and drinking water (1·7%). StIb-positive enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) were predominant in wastewater, indicating that people in the site carried ETEC. In contrast, no ETEC was present in drinking water and the proportion of H8-positive isolates was significantly smaller (7·8%) than that in wastewater (16·3%) (P = 0·001). Our findings indicate that sanitary wastewater from the slum was heavily contaminated with pathogenic E. coli, posing a great health risk. Furthermore, E. coli contamination of drinking water could be derived from not only human but also other sources.

Significance and Impact of the Study:

Sanitary wastewater from an urban slum was heavily contaminated with pathogenic Escherichia coli. It is worth noting a great health risk of accidental exposure to pathogenically contaminated wastewater improperly discharged in and around urban slums. The distinct difference in pathotypes between wastewater and drinking water and the significantly smaller positive proportion of the human-specific E. coli genetic biomarker (H8) in drinking water indicate that drinking water contamination could be derived from not only human but also other sources. This highlights that pathotyping in association with the H8 marker provides an indication of pathogen contamination sources of environmental transmission media.

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