From April to June 2001, a monitoring study at Oostende (Belgium) was conducted to obtain an insight into fecal pollution impairing water quality at this coastal area. Eight sampling sites were selected based on the historically low water quality at these sites compared to the remainder of the area. Indicator organisms such as fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli and fecal streptococci were monitored by plating. A real-time PCR assay for quantification of the human-specific HF183 Bacteroides 16S rRNA genetic marker was used to detect human fecal pollution at the sampling sites. Human fecal pollution was detected at all sampling sites. However, the frequency of detection ranged from 30–100% and the amount of human-specific Bacteroides markers recorded varied between the sampling sites. Concentrations of 107 human-specific Bacteroides markers per l to levels below the detection limit of the real-time PCR assay were recorded. Our results indicate that human fecal pollution is a re-occurring problem in certain areas. Of all the environmental parameters monitored during the study, only rainfall was strongly related to the detection of the indicator organisms and the human-specific Bacteroides marker.

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