We evaluated a two-step enrichment procedure to detect coliphages and an integrated cell culture-nested polymerase chain reaction (ICC-nPCR) to detect human astrovirus, enteroviruses, rotavirus and adenovirus type 40 and 41 in marine water samples collected by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA). MWRA has been monitoring its receiving waters for coliphages, anthropogenic viruses and indicator bacteria in order to evaluate the impact of Boston's Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant discharge. Coliphages and enteric viruses were originally assayed using single agar overlay and most probable number cell culture (MPN) methods, respectively. Reanalysis of these samples for enteric viruses by ICC-nPCR demonstrated that 46% were positive for at least one virus compared with 23% with the MPN method. Use of the enrichment method showed a 47% increase in the detection of male specific and somatic coliphages compared with the single agar overlay method. Correlations between the presence of coliphages, enteric viruses and indicator bacteria were based on proximity to the treatment plant discharge, seasonal variations and site levels. The presence of enteric viruses was significantly correlated to coliphages but not to indicator bacteria. Preliminary comparative results demonstrate that effective and efficient monitoring of anthropogenic contamination can be achieved using these more sensitive and specific techniques.

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