Environmental Reservoirs for Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in South Asian Gangetic Riverine System

Forecasting diarrheagenic E. coli contamination of aquatic resources to prevent outbreaks largely depends on rapid and accurate diagnostic testing in a few hours. Real-time PCR is widely used for quick culture-free quantitative enumeration of pathogenic bacteria in environmental samples. In this study, real-time PCR in molecular beacon format was used for detection and culture-free quantitative enumeration of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) harboring LT1 gene in a sewage-impacted south Asian Gangetic riverine system. The quantitative budget for ETEC in surface water was observed to vary significantly (DMRT, p < 0.05) among the sites. Aquatic flora (Eichhornia crassipes, Potamogeton crispus, Potamogeton pectinatus, Ranunculus sceleratus, Polygonum glabrum, Pontederia cordata, Najas indica and strands of Spirogyra spp.) collected between sites 1 and 9 exhibited significant high levels of ETEC in comparison to their representatives collected from pristine area. The level of ETEC harboring LT1 gene observed in leafy vegetables cultivated along the banks was in the following order: mint leaves > coriander > spinach > methi leaves. The study suggests that the aquatic flora and cultivated leafy vegetables in the south Asian Gangetic riverine system are environmental reservoirs for enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli.