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Tracking pathways for pathogen contamination in urban groundwater supplies in Africa: novel application of qPCR techniques

Lapworth, Dan; Sorensen, James; Read, Dan; Pedley, Steve; Nkhuwa, Daniel; Bell, Rachel. 2015 Tracking pathways for pathogen contamination in urban groundwater supplies in Africa: novel application of qPCR techniques. [Lecture] In: 42nd IAH Congress, Rome, Italy, 13-18 Sept 2015. (Unpublished)

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Abstract/Summary

Low income urban communities across Africa depend on local shallow, often highly contaminated, groundwater sources for drinking and domestic use as well as larger municipal supplies extracting groundwater from deeper within the aquifer system where these are available and affordable. Rapid lateral and vertical pathways in the subsurface, often only active for limited periods e.g. during high water table conditions, can lead to rapid deterioration of groundwater quality. Sanitary risk assessments and quantification of basic water quality indicators such thermotolerant coliforms are often used as part of water point vulnerability assessments in urban and peri-urban water supplies in Africa. While there have been huge advances in the development of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques in recent years for amplifying microbial DNA, these techniques have not been used to date for quantifying specific pathogenic strains of bacteria in groundwaters in Africa. In this paper we present results from a pilot study using qPCR techniques for the first time to quantify the occurrence of 26 specific pathogenic strains in water supplies in Kabwe, Zambia. Pathogen occurrence is assessed in both shallow and deep groundwater points during both the wet and dry season in a vulnerable dolomite aquifer system. Multiple pathogens were revealed within the groundwater system including Vibrio cholera and Salmonella enterica. This technique shows great potential for tracking specific pathogens, fingerprinting sources of pathogens in groundwater sources and assessing rapid shallow pathways in widespread vulnerable settings in Africa, and elsewhere, such as those found in lateritic or karstic terrains.

Item Type: Publication - Conference Item (Lecture)
CEH Sections: Rees (from October 2014)
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Environmental tracers, Groundwater protection, International development
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Hydrology
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 26 Nov 2015 15:24 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/512300

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