Source-Associated Gastroenteritis Risk from Swimming Exposure to Aging Fecal Pathogens

Baolei Wu, Chunwei Wang, Chongmiao Zhang, Michael J. Sadowsky, Mawuli Dzakpasu, Xiaochang C. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Human contact with fecally contaminated waters often raises public health concern. The infection potential closely relates to the fecal source type and the aging persistence of waterborne pathogens. In this study, the health risk of contracting gastroenteritis from exposure to aging fecal contamination was predicted using source-associated markers. Microbial decay characteristics in typical summer seawater were incorporated into a pathogen dose estimation model for a constant fecal input. Results show that the median illness probability commensurate with the health benchmark of 36/1000 corresponded to the marker concentrations of ∼7.8, ∼6.6, ∼3.7, and ∼3.5 log10 gene copies/100 mL for seagulls, cattle, raw sewage, and treated effluent, respectively. The error in risk estimates due to neglecting microbial decay was linearly correlated to the decay differences between markers and pathogens. Specifically, the health risk associated with nonhuman sources, which was primarily contributed by bacterial and parasitic pathogens, can be substantially overestimated, while that for virus-dominated human sources was insignificantly affected by the differential decay. Additionally, seagulls dominated the Enterococcus concentration in waters with a mixture of the above-mentioned sources, although they posed limited health risk. This study provides an approach to understanding the influence of fecal aging on health risk estimation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)921-929
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 21 2020

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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