The survival of Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Shigella sonnei, poliovirus type 1 and a parvovirus (Minute Virus of Mice) was determined in seawater. Seeded seawater was incubated in the laboratory at 6, 12, 20 and 28°C for up to 40 d. In-situ survival studies were done seasonally (winter, spring, summer and fall) using seeded microbial dialysis equipment placed in the Atlantic Ocean off coastal North Carolina at water depths of 3–10 m. In laboratory studies all test microbes survived longer at lower temperatures with typical times for 90% inactivation (T90) of 1–3 d at the highest temperature and >10 d at the lowest temperature. Of the microbes tested, E. coli survived least well while S. typhi and Sh. sonnei survived similar to or greater than enteric viruses. Parvovirus survival was similar to that of poliovirus. Under in-situ conditions, E. coli also survived least well of all microbes tested with T90 values of 0.9–3.9 d depending upon season. All other test microbes had generally similar survivals. Overall, microbial survival in seawater was greater under laboratory conditions than under in-situ conditions. There was no clear association between microbial survival and water temperature. The lower survival of E. coli compared to the bacterial and viral pathogens under laboratory conditions raises concerns because it is a key microbial indicator of faecal contamination.

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