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Using biochemical and molecular methods, this research determined whether or not the H(2)S test did correctly identify sewage-contaminated waters by being the first to use culturing and molecular methods to identify the types and numbers of fecal indicator organisms, pathogens, and other microbes present in sewage samples with positive H(2)S test results. For the culture-based method, samples were analyzed for the presence of fecal bacteria by spread plating the sewage sample onto differential and selective media for Aeromonas spp., Escherichia coli, sulfite-reducing clostridia, H(2)S-producing bacteria, and Salmonella/Shigella spp. The isolates were then: (1) tested to determine whether they were H(2)S-producing organisms and (2) identified to the genus and species level using biochemical methods. The molecular method used to characterize the microbial populations of select samples was terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms. These experiments on sewage provided evidence that positive H(2)S tests consistently contained fecal bacteria and pathogens. There were strong relationships of agreement between the organisms identified by both methods tested. This study is an important advance in microbial water quality detection since it is focused on the evaluation of a novel, low-cost, water microbiology test that has the potential to provide millions of people worldwide access to water quality detection technology. Of prime consideration in evaluating water quality tests is the determination of the test's accuracy and specificity, and this article is a fundamental step in providing that information.


Lanakila McMahan, Anthony A Devine, Amy M Grunden, Mark D Sobsey. Validation of the H2S method to detect bacteria of fecal origin by cultured and molecular methods. Applied microbiology and biotechnology. 2011 Dec;92(6):1287-95

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PMID: 22038242

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