Human Health Risks Associated with Recreational Waters: Preliminary Approach of Integrating Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment with Microbial Source Tracking Academic Article uri icon


  • Gastrointestinal (GI) illness risks associated with exposure to waters impacted by human and nonhuman fecal sources were estimated using quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA). Microbial source tracking (MST) results had identified Escherichia coli (E. coli) contributors to the waterbody as human and unidentified (10%), cattle and domestic animals (25%), and wildlife (65%) in a rural watershed. The illness risks associated with ingestion during recreation were calculated by assigning reference pathogens for each contributing source and using pathogen doseresponse relationships. The risk of GI illness was calculated for a specific sampling site with a geometric mean of E. coli of 163 colony forming units (cfu) 100 mL1, and the recreational standard of E. coli, 126 cfu 100 mL1. While the most frequent sources of fecal indicator bacteria at the sampling site were nonhuman, the risk of illness from norovirus, the reference pathogen representing human waste, contributed the greatest risk to human health. This study serves as a preliminary review regarding the potential for incorporating results from library-dependent MST to inform a QMRA for recreational waters. The simulations indicated that identifying the sources contributing to the bacterial impairment is critical to estimate the human health risk associated with recreation in a waterbody.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 4

author list (cited authors)

  • Gitter, A., Mena, K. D., Wagner, K. L., Boellstorff, D. E., Borel, K. E., Gregory, L. F., Gentry, T. J., & Karthikeyan, R.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Gitter, Anna||Mena, Kristina D||Wagner, Kevin L||Boellstorff, Diane E||Borel, Kyna E||Gregory, Lucas F||Gentry, Terry J||Karthikeyan, Raghupathy

publication date

  • January 2020