The decay rates of enteric waterborne pathogens were evaluated following the introduction of Yersinia enterocolitica, Salmonella enterica, Campylobacter jejuni and Arcobacter butzleri into river water at different temperatures (5, 15 and 25°C) for a period of 28 days. To improve the accuracy of the results a molecular viability assay, long amplicon propidium monoazide-polymerase chain reaction (PMA-PCR), was used to quantify the viable cell concentration and results from PCR with and without PMA were compared. As well, the effect of background microbiota was assessed for Y. enterocolitica and S. enterica by inoculating cells into sterile and non-sterile river water. Cell persistence was improved by up to 4 log for Y. enterocolitica and 4.5 log for S. enterica in sterile river water compared to natural river water, showing that the autochthonous biological activity in river water can accelerate the die-off of introduced bacteria. Results also showed that low temperature significantly improved the persistence of all four target bacteria in non-sterile river water. There was a more rapid decline in cell concentration in samples with PMA pretreatment; therefore using PMA-PCR analysis can provide more reliable data on viable/active enteric bacteria in aquatic microcosms and allows for improved assessment of pathogens in the environment.

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