In this study, we wished to assess the prevalence and determine the sources of three zoonotic bacterial pathogens (Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Escherichia coli O157:H7) in the Salmon River watershed in southwestern British Columbia. Surface water, sewage, and animal faecal samples were collected from the watershed. Selective bacterial culture and PCR techniques were used to isolate these three pathogens and indicator bacteria from these samples and characterize them. Campylobacter was the most prevalent pathogen in all samples, followed by Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7. E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella isolation rates from water, as well as faecal coliform densities correlated positively with precipitation, while Campylobacter isolation rates correlated negatively with precipitation. Analysis of DNA extracted from water samples for the presence of Bacteroides host-species markers, and comparisons of C. jejuniflaA-RFLP types and Salmonella serovars from faecal and water samples provided evidence that human sewage and specific domestic and wild animal species were sources of these pathogens; however, in most cases the source could not be determined or more than one source was possible. The frequent isolation of these zoonotic pathogens in the Salmon River highlights the risks to human health associated with intentional and unintentional consumption of untreated surface waters.

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