This proposal details MapTech's plans for developing a Nutrient Utilization Patterns (NUP) methodology to determine the sources of E. coli and Enterococci in rural waters.
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Fecal contamination of water is widespread in the United States, and of particular concern to the animal-agriculture community. Accurate, timely, and cost-effective methods of identifying fecal sources are critical to correcting these contamination problems. Current methods of Bacterial Source Tracking (BST) include both molecular and non-molecular techniques. While non-molecular techniques are typically less expensive and more quickly performed than molecular techniques, they may not provide the refinement of source categorization that molecular techniques provide. While molecular techniques may provide greater refinement of source categorization, they are considerably more expensive and the number of isolates that can be source-classified is seriously limited. In addition, molecular techniques rely on human interpretation of results, which can be prone to subjectivity. Upon successful completion of phase I, MapTech will begin applying the technology through BST analyses conducted at its Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory. Through phase II, a packaged analysis kit and software package will be developed for sale to laboratories across the United States and internationally. Control of the database required to perform the analysis will be maintained by MapTech and sold by subscription to users. The potential market is extensive, as this technology will support development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), Source Water Assessments, and source water protection based on recent Homeland Security Initiatives. <P>
APPROACH: This innovative method, which incorporates proven technology and is widely used in clinical microbiology, will provide significant improvements over current techniques for determining fecal contamination sources. The cost and speed of processing samples is expected to be competitive with non-molecular techniques, while preliminary results indicate that the level of source refinement will be comparable to molecular techniques (i.e. species level categorization of sources). Additionally, analysis will be semi-automated through the use of a plate reader, eliminating subjective interpretation of results by laboratory personnel.