OSU Study Finds E. Coli an Indicator of Water QualityMon, 23 Jun 2014 10:56:26 CDT
Escherichia coli, often referred to as E. coli, are common bacteria found widely in nature including the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and warm-blooded animals. Many harmless strains of E. coli exist and are essential components of a healthy digestive tract; however, some strains can be patho-genic causing intestinal and urinary tract infections in both humans and animals. For example, E. coli O157:H7 produces a powerful toxin capable of causing such illnesses.
If pathogenic bacteria are present in water they can pose a human health risk. The presence and level of certain bacteria in water bodies are a common indicator of water quality. Since it is not feasible for state agencies to test water bodies for the presence of every possible pathogen, E. coli is commonly tested as an "indicator organism." The presence of E. coli in water indicates fecal contamination, which correlates to an increased risk that other pathogens are present. These other pathogens may include Salmonella, Streptococci, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Enterovirus, etc. If high levels of indicator bacteria, such as E. coli, are found in recreational waters, these areas may be temporarily closed to the public until deemed safe. Sources of fecal contamination may include wildlife, pets, humans, livestock, poultry or other sources.
Click Here for additional information about E. coli, refer to OSU Factsheet "E. coli: An Overview."
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