A quantitative polymerase chain reaction assay (115 bp amplicon) specific to Escherichia coli K12 with an ABITM internal control was developed based on sequence data encoding the rfb gene cluster. Assay specificity was evaluated using three E. coli K12 strains (ATCC W3110, MG1655 & DH1), 24 non-K12 E. coli and 23 bacterial genera. The biofilm detection limit was 103 colony-forming units (CFU) E. coli K12 mL−1, but required a modified protocol, which included a bio-blocker Pseudomonas aeruginosa with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid buffered to pH 5 prior to cell lysis/DNA extraction. The novel protocol yielded the same sensitivity for drinking water biofilms associated with Fe3O4 (magnetite)-coated SiO2 (quartz) grains and biofilm-surface iron corrosion products from a drinking water distribution system. The novel DNA extraction protocol and specific E. coli K12 assay are sensitive and robust enough for detection and quantification within iron drinking water pipe biofilms, and are particularly well suited for studying enteric bacterial interactions within biofilms.

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