The current investigation evaluated the use of real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for quantitative detection of Escherichia coli in marine beach water. Densities of E. coli in 263 beach water samples collected from 13 bathing beaches in Hong Kong between November 2008 and December 2009 were determined using both real-time PCR and culture-based methods. Regression analysis showed that these two methods had a significant positive linear relationship with a correlation coefficient (r) of 0.64. Serial dilution of spiked samples indicated that the real-time PCR had a limit of quantification of 25 E. coli colonies in 100 mL water sample. This study showed that the rapid real-time PCR has potential to complement the traditional culture method of assessing fecal pollution in marine beach water.

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