The prevalence of pathogens on potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) grown in soil amended with a pathogen rich wastewater sludge was investigated. Bacteria of the family Enterobacteriaceae are important pathogens causing intestinal and systemic illness of humans and other animals.
Type B sludge was used. Sludges investigated are the high metal and the low metal sludges. Microorganisms in the sludge-amended soil were using culture-based technique. Salmonella and E. coli were observed in tested soil samples. No microorganisms were isolated from control samples taken throughout the process of the experiment. At harvest time, some of the potato samples from LMS soil were contaminated. These potatoes were subjected to further investigation using molecular techniques (polymerase chain reaction) with fD1 and rP2 as primers. Organisms identified from the sequenced potato peel samples with the BLAST search tool included Enterobacter agglomerans (Pantoea agglomerans), several Buttiauxella spp., Pectobacterium spp., Erwinia spp. and a few Pantoea spp. Other than the E. agglomerans, which is commonly found in the gut and upper respiratory tract of humans and in the environment, all the other species identified were found to be mainly either plant or soil pathogens. The E. agglomerans are not primary pathogens but secondary opportunistic pathogens particularly in immuno-compromised individuals.
These results suggest that growing high risk crops using wastewater sludge contaminated soil may lead to limited infestation of produce with primary pathogens. It appears that the use of HMS due to early pathogen die-off provides less risk of infection than the LMS. However, proper treatment of wastewater sludge to reduce pathogen load is essential prior to its use as soil conditioner.