Sponsored by: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
This study tested the hypothesis that the whole-cell fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) profiles of indicator microorganisms; i.e., total coliform (TC), fecal coliform (FC), Escherichia coli, and enterococcus show statistically significant host-specific differences due possibly to different environmental conditions in the guts of different hosts selecting different microbial populations and even different strains of the same microbial species. A known-source library containing the FAME profiles of different indicator microorganism isolates cultured from six different possible sources (i.e., sewage, bovine, swine, waterfowl, poultry, and deer) of microbial pollution was developed. To this purpose, 303 TC isolates, 314 FC isolates, 605 Escherichia coli isolates and of 511 enterococcus isolates were profiled. The results indicate the validity of the hypothesis and strongly suggest that FAME profiling has the potential to become an innovative, reliable, economical, and effective technology to accurately predict the sources of microbial pollution in water environments.