Field Evaluation of a Semiautomated Method for Rapid and Simple Analysis of Recreational Water Microbiological Quality


American Society for Microbiology


An early warning system using a rapid enzymatic semiautomated method suitable for fecal coliform detection in recreational waters within 8 h was developed further and evaluated in this study. This rapid method was compared to the standard method followed in the United Kingdom. We used 1,011 samples originating from 206 different locations in Wales. When we assessed the presence or absence of fecal coliforms, targeting very low levels of contamination, we obtained 83.9% agreement between the rapid method and the lauryl sulfate broth-membrane filtration technique, whereas direct confirmation of the samples processed by the rapid method showed 89.3% agreement. Environmental enzymatic background activity was found to be the main limiting factor for this method. Owing to a specific and integrated handling of the results by the software of the instrument, the percentage of false-positive results (a consequence of enzymatic background) was successfully limited to 2.9% by the direct confirmation evaluation. However, 7.8% false-negative results due to “late-growers” had to be accepted in order to produce results within a working day. At present, the method can be used in a more conservative way to assess the environmental threshold of 100 CFU of fecal coliforms per 100 ml in recreational waters. The implications of our findings with regard to the applicability of rapid enzymatic methods are discussed.

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