is a facultative intracellular pathogen thought to be widely distributed in the environment. We investigated the prevalence and characteristics of
isolates from surface waters derived from catchments within the South Nation River watershed (Ontario, Canada). This watershed is dominated by urban and rural development, livestock and crop production, and wildlife habitats. From June to November 2005, a total of 314 surface water samples were collected biweekly from 22 discrete sampling sites characterized by various upstream land uses. Presumptive
spp. were isolated using a selective enrichment and isolation procedure, and 75
isolates were identified based on colony morphology, hemolytic activity, and amplification of three pathogenicity genes:
. Thirty-two of 314 (10%) surface water samples were positive for the presence of
, but detection ranged between 0 and 27% depending on the sampling date. Isolates belonging to serovar group 1/2a, 3a (50%) and group 4b, 4d, 4e (32%) were dominant.
populations were resolved into 13 EcoRI ribotypes and 21 ApaI and 21 AscI pulsotypes. These had Simpson indexes of discrimination of up to 0.885. Lineage I-related isolates were dominant (61%) during the summer, whereas lineage II isolates were dominant (77%) in the fall. Isolates were, on average, resistant to 6.1 ± 2.1 antibiotics out of 17 tested. Half of the
isolates exhibited potential virulence linked to the production of a functional internalin A, and some isolates were found to be moderately to highly virulent by in vitro Caco-2 plaque formation assay (up to 28% of entry). There was a statistically significant link between the occurrence of
and proximity to an upstream dairy farm and degree of cropped land. Our data indicate that
is widespread in the studied catchments, where it could represent a public health issue related to agricultural land use.