Occurrence of Virulence and Antimicrobial Resistance Genes in Escherichia coli Isolates from Different Aquatic Ecosystems within the St. Clair River and Detroit River Areas
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Although the number of Escherichia coli bacteria in surface waters can differ greatly between locations, relatively little is known about the distribution of E. coli pathotypes in surface waters used as sources for drinking or recreation. DNA microarray technology is a suitable tool for this type of study due to its ability to detect high numbers of virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes simultaneously. Pathotype, phylogenetic group, and antimicrobial resistance gene profiles were determined for 308 E. coli isolates from surface water samples collected from diverse aquatic ecosystems at six different sites in the St. Clair River and Detroit River areas. A higher frequency (48%) of E. coli isolates possessing virulence and antimicrobial resistance genes was observed in an urban site located downstream of wastewater effluent outfalls than in the other examined sites (average of 24%). Most E. coli pathotypes were extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) pathotypes and belonged to phylogenetic groups B2 and D. The ExPEC pathotypes were found to occur across all aquatic ecosystems investigated, including riverine, estuarine, and offshore lake locations. The results of this environmental study using DNA microarrays highlight the widespread distribution of E. coli pathotypes in aquatic ecosystems and the potential public health threat of E. coli pathotypes originating from municipal wastewater sources.
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