Global Distribution of Human-associated Fecal Genetic Markers in Reference Samples from Six Continents

Rene E. Mayer, G.H. Reischer, Simone K. Ixenmaier, Julia Derx, Alfred Paul Blaschke, James Ebdon, Rita Linke, Lucas Egle, W. Ahmed, A.R. Blanch, Denis Byamukama, Marion Savill, Douglas Mushi, Héctor A. Cristóbal, Thomas A. Edge, Margit A. Schade, Asli Aslan, Yolanda M. Brooks, Regina Sommer, Yoshifumi MasagoMaria I. Sato, Huw Taylor, Joan B. Rose, Stefan Wuertz, Orin C. Shanks, Harald Piringer, Robert L. Mach, Domenico Savio, Matthias Zessner, Andreas H. Farnleitner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous bacterial genetic markers are available for the molecular detection of human sources of fecal pollution in environmental waters. However, widespread application is hindered by a lack of knowledge regarding geographical stability, limiting implementation to a small number of well-characterized regions. This study investigates the geographic distribution of five human-associated genetic markers (HF183/BFDrev, HF183/BacR287, BacHum-UCD, BacH, and Lachno2) in municipal wastewaters (raw and treated) from 29 urban and rural wastewater treatment plants (750 – 4,400,000 population equivalents) from 13 countries spanning six continents. In addition, genetic markers were tested against 280 human and non-human fecal samples from domesticated, agricultural and wild animal sources. Findings revealed that all genetic markers are present in consistently high concentrations in raw (median log10 7.2 - 8.0 marker equivalents (ME) 100 ml-1) and biologically treated wastewater samples (median log10 4.6 - 6.0 ME 100 ml-1) regardless of location and population. The false positive rates of the various markers in non-human fecal samples ranged from 5% to 47%. Results suggest that several genetic markers have considerable potential for measuring human-associated contamination in polluted environmental waters. This will be helpful in water quality management and pollution modeling and health risk assessment across the globe (as demonstrated by QMRAcatch).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5076–5084
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2018


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