Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012PR138B

Microbial source tracking: The hunt for E. faecalis the dominant Enterococci among non-pigmented environmental enterococci in the water systems of Puerto Rico.

Institute: Puerto Rico
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-04-01 End Date: 2014-03-01
Total Federal Funds: $39,400 Total Non-Federal Funds: $29,178

Principal Investigators: Luis Rios-Hernandez, Luis Rios-Hernandez

Abstract: Project Summary: The Junta de Calidad Ambiental (JCA) has reported that the public beaches monitored in Puerto Rico are frequently found to be unsafe for swimmers due to the high levels of fecal indicator bacteria. The current regulations to assess recreational waters (marine) dictate that the presence of enterococci at levels higher than 104 CFU/100ml in a single sample or 35 CFU/100ml in geometric mean (5 consecutive samples within a month) deems the beach unsafe for swimmers. It actually assumes that all the enterococci enumerated were originated from human fecal matter. In fact we have shown that in Puerto Rico, this is not true since our samples were dominated by E. casseliflavus a motile and yellow pigmented enterococci that it is not associated with humans. On the other hand, we were able to observe what appear to be a recent fecal contamination event and the introduction of a new genotype among the existing population of E. faecalis. The source of these enterococci is currently unknown, but their importance is exacerbated by the fact that entreococci isolated in Southern California (collaborative work currently in the lab) also contains the same genotypes as the isolates we find in PR. The main objective of the proposal, is to attempt to identify the natural reservoir of a relevant species of Enterococci that contains a particular genotype that contributes to its persistence, prevalence, and success in water systems of Puerto Rico. Broader Impact: The establishment of this research project will allow our students (graduate and undergraduates) to become involved in a scientific investigation which will expose underrepresented minority students to new technologies and up-to-date research tools that have not been previously available. Furthermore, the participating students, three undergraduates and one graduate will have a unique opportunity to integrate community service with laboratory scientific work and engage in a teacher-student dynamic with the community members, in which some times they are students and other times they are the teachers.