Genetic diversity of Escherichia coli isolates in irrigation water and associated sediments: implications for source tracking. Academic Article uri icon


  • Identifying the sources of fecal contaminants in surface water bodies such as rivers and lakes is of significant importance for environmental quality, food safety and regulatory purposes. Current DNA library-based source tracking approaches rely on the comparison of the genetic relatedness among the fecal contaminants. The objective of this study was to determine the genetic relatedness of Escherichia coli isolated from irrigation water and associated sediments using pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and to evaluate the genetic stability of the E. coli PFGE patterns. The isolates were obtained over a 4-month period from specific locations within irrigation canals and sediments associated with the Rio Grande River along the Texas-Mexico border. Fifty E. coli isolates were genotyped using PFGE. Different E. coli genotypes were identified among samples collected in 11 different locations. Some isolates obtained over successive months showed similar genotypic patterns. In the laboratory experiment, the PFGE pattern of one E. coli strain changed during survival in irrigation water. The genetic relatedness of this strain changed from >95% to <83% over 8-week survival. These results imply that PFGE is of such extreme resolution that it may be a challenging task to rely solely on a PFGE-based source tracking DNA fingerprint library for large watersheds.

published proceedings

  • Water Res

author list (cited authors)

  • Lu, L., Hume, M. E., Sternes, K. L., & Pillai, S. D.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Lu, Lingeng||Hume, Michael E||Sternes, Keith L||Pillai, Suresh D

publication date

  • November 2004