Assessment of health risk and fecal bacterial loads associated with human fecal pollution requires reliable host-specific analytical methods and a rapid quantification approach. We report the development of quantitative PCR assays for quantification of two recently described human-specific genetic markers targeting Bacteroidales-like cell surface-associated genes. Each assay exhibited a range of quantification from 10 to 1 x 10(6) copies of target DNA. For each assay, internal amplification controls were developed to detect the presence or absence of amplification inhibitors. The assays predominantly detected human fecal specimens and exhibited specificity levels greater than 97% when tested against 265 fecal DNA extracts from 22 different animal species. The abundance of each human-specific genetic marker in primary effluent wastewater samples collected from 20 geographically distinct locations was measured and compared to quantities estimated by real-time PCR assays specific for rRNA gene sequences from total Bacteroidales and enterococcal fecal microorganisms. Assay performances combined with the prevalence of DNA targets in sewage samples provide experimental evidence supporting the potential application of these quantitative methods for monitoring fecal pollution in ambient environmental waters.
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