We present a method for the reliable detection and source characterisation of faecal pollution in water and shellfish matrices, utilising real-time PCR analysis of mitochondrial DNA targets. In this study we designed real-time PCR (TaqMan) probes to target human, bovine, ovine and swine mtDNA. PCR amplification using species-specific TaqMan probes on faecal matter and mixed effluent slurries revealed no cross-reactions between species of interest and other vertebrate faecal matter. Performed as a single blind experiment we were able to correctly identify faecal material in 17/20 effluents (85% correct). mtDNA degrades relatively quickly in faecally-spiked water samples (∼2 weeks), a similar timeframe of environmental persistence to several bacterial faecal indictors, highlighting its applicability. The procedure described here is specific, rapid (<5 hours) and sensitive. These results confirm the suitability of using species-specific mtDNA as an indicator in source tracking studies in surface waters, shellfish harvesting areas and shellfish matrices.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.