The utility of Escherichia coli as a contamination indicator for rural drinking water: Evidence from whole genome sequencing

Author: Saskia Nowicki , Zaydah R. deLaurent, Etienne P. de Villiers, George Githinji, Katrina J. Charles

Across the water sector, Escherichia coli is the preferred microbial water quality indicator and current guidance upholds that it indicates recent faecal contamination. This has been challenged, however, by research demonstrating growth of E. coli in the environment. In this study, the authors used whole genome sequencing to investigate the links between E. coli and recent faecal contamination in drinking water. Findings point to the difficulty of interpreting health risk from E. coli grab samples, especially at household level. This study supports the use of E. coli risk categories and encourages monitoring that accounts for sanitary conditions and temporal variability.

 

 

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Kelly Ann Naylor, Associate Director, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Section, Programme Division, UNICEF

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