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Coliphages may be an alternative to bacterial indicators of sewage pollution in sea water. However, non-human sources of coliphage to the marine environment have not been investigated. A study was conducted in Southeastern Florida to determine how E. coli C (ATCC 13706) bacteriophages of non-human origin could interfere with the coliphage indicator system in the monitoring of human fecal pollution in sea water. Coliphages were detected, in variable numbers, in 12.5%, 80%, and 33.3% of human, seagull (Larus delawarensis), and pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis carolinensis) fecal samples, respectively, as well as in 100% of raw sewage samples. No coliphage was detected in feces of dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and sea lion (Zalophus californianus). Single fecal samples of cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus floridanus) and royal tern (Thalasseus maximus maximus) also contained coliphage. The coliphage content per gram of dry weight of raw sewage was significantly (α = 0.00007) higher than that of all the other fecal samples. Even though coliphage titers in the animal feces are lower than in raw sewage, in restricted geographical areas (i.e. marinas), non-human animal sources may still be important.
Three time series analyses were performed to investigate the inconsistent detection of coliphage in human feces. Coliphage was present in only 3 out of 7 fresh human stool samples. However, coliphages appeared after several days of aging of the samples in a dilution of sterile phosphate buffered water. It is hypothesized that lysogenic bacteria in human feces release coliphage through spontaneous induction and physico-chemical conditions outside the human intestine may trigger this induction.
Isabel Puente. 1991. Sources of Coliphage to the Marine Environment. Master's thesis. Nova Southeastern University. Retrieved from NSUWorks, Oceanographic Center. (361)