Bacteria, viruses, and parasites in an intermittent stream protected from and exposed to pasturing cattle: Prevalence, densities, and quantitative microbial risk assessment
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Over 3500 individual water samples, for 131 sampling times, targeting waterborne pathogens/fecal indicator bacteria were collected during a 7-year period from 4 sites along an intermittent stream running through a small livestock pasture system with and without cattle access-to-stream restriction measures. The study assessed the impact of cattle pasturing/riparian zone protection on: pathogen (bacterial, viral, parasite) occurrence, concentrations of fecal indicators, and quantitative microbial risk assessments (QMRA) of the risk of Cryptosporidium, Giardia and Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection in humans. Methodologies were developed to compute QMRA mean risks on the basis of water samples exhibiting potentially human infectious Cryptosporidium and E. coli based on genotyping Crytosporidium, and E. coli O157:H7 presence/absence information paired with enumerated E. coli. All Giardia spp. were considered infectious. No significant pasturing treatment effects were observed among pathogens, with the exception of Campylobacter spp. and E. coli O157:H7. Campylobacter spp. prevalence significantly decreased downstream through pasture treatments and E. coli O157:H7 was observed in a few instances in the middle of the unrestricted pasture. Densities of total coliform, fecal coliform, and E. coli reduced significantly downstream in the restricted pasture system, but not in the unrestricted system. Seasonal and flow conditions were associated with greater indicator bacteria densities, especially in the summer. Norovirus GII was detected at rates of 7-22% of samples for all monitoring sites, and rotavirus in 0-7% of samples for all monitoring sites; pasture treatment trends were not evident, however. Seasonal and stream flow variables (and their interactions) were relatively more important than pasture treatments for initially stratifying pathogen occurrence and higher fecal indicator bacteria densities. Significant positive associations among fecal indicator bacteria and Campylobacter spp. detection were observed. For QMRA, adjusting for the proportion of Cryptosporidium spp. detected that are infectious for humans reduces downstream risk estimates by roughly one order of magnitude. Using QMRA in this manner provides a more refined estimate of beneficial management practice effects on pathogen exposure risks to humans.
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