By J. David Clem (auth.), Cameron R. Hackney, Merle D. Pierson (eds.)
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Use of surrogate microorganisms was considered as a reasonable means to detect the presence of fecal contamination in receiving waters. This review is generally restricted to indicators found exclusively in feces, sewage or septage that have applicability to shellfish waters. Microorganisms found in sewage or septage which can grow saprophytically in natural waters are not included. Examples of such microorganisms are Aeromonas hydrophila, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Although bacteria have been and are now the approved fecal indicator organism, use offungi, and specifically the yeasts, should be briefly mentioned as they have seen limited advocacy as candidate indicators of fecal contamination.
Sublethal stress reflects the inability of a microorganism to be cultured in a medium because of prior injury, impairment or damage that resulted from exposure to unfavorable environmental conditions. Sublethally stressed cells are particularly sensitive to recovery methodologies that use selective temperatures, lack resuscitative protocols or use inhibitory substances to enhance media specificity and selectivity (Hackney, Ray, and Speck 1979). The development of sublethal stress in E. coli as a function of both temperature and salinity was explored by Anderson, Rhodes, and Kator (1979) and Rhodes, Anderson, and Kator (1983).
The STP or septic system provides a nutrient-rich environment, at times maintained at a higher temperature than the receiving waters, and exposes cells to varying degrees of toxic materials or disinfectant-mediated injury. Could it be that indicator bacteria from diffuse natural sources are physiologically adapted to adverse nutrient concentrations, intermittent lack of water, unfavorable temperatures, etc.? Microbial and Chemical Indicators 35 Such adaptation could alter indicator persistence and recoverability compared to laboratory-grown cells.