E. coli is an indicator of recent fecal contamination of freshwater beaches around the Great Lakes region. Elevated concentrations indicate that a fecal contamination has occurred, and that the risk for contact with fecal pathogenic organisms is heightened. The green algae, Cladophora, harbors populations of E. coli and potentially allows for prolonged survival and even replication of the bacterium in the lake environment. If presence of Cladophora mats on beaches is associated with persistence of E. coli in beach water, then E. coli would be a useful indicator organism only if pathogens also were able to survive and persist in the algae. This study utilized lab microcosms to study the persistence of E. coli, and of the fecal pathogens, Salmonella and Shigella, in lake water with and without the presence of Cladophora. E. coli was able to persist for extended periods in the presence of Cladophora (attached to algal mats for 45 days). Salmonella and Shigella, however, were unable to persist for this time period while in the presence of Cladophora (Salmonella attached to Cladophora was detectable for 10 days and Shigella was detectable for only 2 days). These data imply that E. coli is able to survive in the presence of Cladophora for greater times than are the fecal pathogens and that E. coli may not be an appropriate indicator organism for beaches with accumulations of algal material.
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Vol. 34 • No. 2