Utility of Helicobacter spp. associated GFD markers for detecting avian fecal pollution in natural waters of two continents

W. Ahmed, V. J. Harwood, K. Nguyen, S. Young, K. Hamilton, S. Toze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Avian fecal droppings may negatively impact environmental water quality due to the presence of high concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and zoonotic pathogens. This study was aimed at evaluating the performance characteristics and utility of a Helicobacter spp. associated GFD marker by screening 265 fecal and wastewater samples from a range of avian and non-avian host groups from two continents (Brisbane, Australia and Florida, USA). The host-prevalence and -specificity of this marker among fecal and wastewater samples tested from Brisbane were 0.58 and 0.94 (maximum value of 1.00). These values for the Florida fecal samples were 0.30 (host-prevalence) and 1.00 (host-specificity). The concentrations of the GFD markers in avian and non-avian fecal nucleic acid samples were measured at a test concentration of 10 ng of nucleic acid at Brisbane and Florida laboratories using the quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay. The mean concentrations of the GFD marker in avian fecal nucleic acid samples (5.2 × 103 gene copies) were two orders of magnitude higher than non-avian fecal nucleic acid samples (8.6 × 101 gene copies). The utility of this marker was evaluated by testing water samples from the Brisbane River, Brisbane and a freshwater creek in Florida. Among the 18 water samples tested from the Brisbane River, 83% (n = 18) were positive for the GFD marker, and the concentrations ranged from 6.0 × 101-3.2 × 102 gene copies per 100 mL water. In all, 92% (n = 25) water samples from the freshwater creek in Florida were also positive for the GFD marker with concentrations ranging from 2.8 × 101-1.3 × 104 gene copies per 100 mL water. Based on the results, it can be concluded that the GFD marker is highly specific to avian host groups, and could be used as a reliable marker to detect the presence and amount of avian fecal pollution in environmental waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-622
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Avian fecal pollution
  • Fecal indicator bacteria
  • Microbial source tracking
  • Molecular markers
  • Quantitative PCR
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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