Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018GA388B

Enhanced human mtDNA assays for fecal source tracking applications

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $18,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,000

Principal Investigators: Joe Brown

Abstract: Human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) approaches have advantages over bacterial markers used in source tracking applications for fecal contamination. The primary advantage of using this marker is that its presence in the environment is unambiguously associated with human waste, since human mtDNA can only be associated with human cells. However, mtDNA markers are typically found in lower abundance than fecal-indicator bacterial (FIB) markers in wastewaters. We have developed an optimized sample processing and human mtDNA assay on a droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) platform which has potential to improve the use of this source-unambiguous marker to track fecal contamination in the environment by boosting its signal. In the proposed study, we will compare the optimized human mitochondrial DNA assay to standard methods using FIB in impaired waters in Atlanta, GA to assess the sensitivity and specificity of the novel method and to evaluate its usefulness as an improved source-tracking marker. The proposed study has potential to add significantly to the field of fecal source tracking and environmental monitoring.