A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reveals the influence of animal type and environmental variables on bacterial pathogen occurrence in streams under typical watershed conditions.

In the United States, pathogens are a commonly reported stream impairment; however, pathogen impairment is assessed not by evaluating actual pathogens but by determining whether the concentration of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) is acceptable with regard to applicable water standards. Although FIB provide a simple and inexpensive test, they do not indicate the source of pollution, have no specific relationship to pathogens, and unless epidemiological studies are performed, do not indicate health risk.

Environmental Health Considerations

This study provides specific data on pathogenic genes associated with animal types and insights into the influence of animal agriculture on stream water quality. The results indicate that pathogen gene profiles offer the potential to address both the source of and the human and ecological risks associated with fecal pollution. The inclusion of animal-specific genes, indicating the presence of pathogens, adds to the body of knowledge by providing information on potential health risks.

More about how the study was conducted, what was discovered, and more information on the issue can be found in on the USGS.gov website.