Relative proportions of E. coli and Enterococcus spp. may be a good indicator of potential health risks associated with the use of roof harvested rainwater stored in tanks

25 Jul 2018

A total of 285 water samples were collected from 71 roof harvested rainwater tanks from four villages in different provinces over a two-year (2013–2014) period during the early (October to December) and late (January to March) rainy season. Water quality was evaluated based on Escherichia coli, faecal coliforms and Enterococcus spp. prevalence using the IDEXX Quanti-Tray quantification system. Real-Time PCR was used to analyse a subset of 168 samples for the presence of Shigella spp., Salmonella spp. and E. coli virulence genes (stx1, stx2 and eaeA). Escherichia coli were detected in 44.1% of the samples, Enterococcus spp. in 57.9% and faecal coliforms in 95.7%. The most prevalent E. coli concentrations in harvested rainwater were observed in 29.1% of samples and 22.5% for Enterococcus spp. and, were within 1–10 cfu/100 ml and 10–100 cfu/100 ml, respectively, whereas those for faecal coliforms (36.6%) were within 100–1000 cfu/100 ml. On average 16.8% of the samples had neither E. coli nor Enterococcus spp. detected, while 33.9% had only Enterococcus spp. and 23.7% had only E. coli. E. coli and Enterococcus spp. were detected together in 25.5% of the samples. Evaluation of samples for potential pathogenic bacteria showed all tested samples to be negative for the Shigella spp. ipaH gene, while five tested positive for Salmonella ipaB gene. None of the samples tested positive for the stx1 and stx2 genes, and only two tested positive for the eaeA gene. These findings are potentially useful in the development of a simplified risk assessment strategy based on the concentrations of indicator bacteria.