Viral Indicators of Hygienic-Sanitary Quality: Detection of Somatic Coliphages in the Southern Adriatic Sea
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One of the objectives of microbiological water quality studies is to identify and minimise public health risks from exposure to bathing waters.
Water-related diseases, particularly those caused by viral pathogens, are still of major concern. Gastrointestinal symptoms experienced by bathers following immersion in surface waters are mainly due to viral, rather than bacterial, infection.
However, there does not appear to be a correlation between the number of pathogenic viruses present in the water matrices and Escherichia coli, the parameter most frequently used to establish microbial water quality.
This study describes the spatial and temporal distribution of somatic coliphages compared with conventional bacterial indicators (E. coli and Enterococci) in the waters off San Cataldo (South Adriatic Sea, Lecce—Italy), a beach resort near the city of Lecce subject to high anthropogenic impact.
Our results indicate that somatic coliphages are less sensitive to environmental factors (temperature and dilution) than the classical indicators of faecal contamination.
These findings suggest that somatic coliphages could be used as potential indicators for evaluating the quality of coastal seawaters and treated wastewaters discharged into the sea, in order to provide a more accurate analysis of the hygienic-sanitary quality of this water matrix.
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