(HealthDay News) – Water at beaches along Lake Erie contains a pathogen associated with human fecal contamination, Arcobacter species, which are known to cause gastrointestinal illness in humans, and levels correlate with beach advisories.

To investigate whether recreational water is a potential source of Arcobacter transmission, Cheonghoon Lee, PhD, from The Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues measured Arcobacter levels and other fecal genetic markers in water sampled 35 times from four beaches along Ohio’s Lake Erie coast, which were known to be contaminated with fecal pollution, in the summer of 2010.

The researchers found Arcobacter at all beaches (75.2% of 129 samples), with occurrence and densities in concordance with the level of fecal contamination. The human-specific fecal marker Bacteroides 16S rRNA gene showed a significant correlation with Arcobacter density. Arcobacter levels from the four beaches correlated with beach advisories. Most of the Arcobacter were closely related to Arcobacter cryaerophilus, a species known to cause gastrointestinal disease in humans.

“In summary, our results demonstrate that human-pathogenic Arcobacter was prevalent in the water at four Lake Erie beaches during the 2010 swimming season,” Lee and colleagues conclude. “Since the major contamination sources of Arcobacter may originate from human-associated fecal contamination, it is important to identify and manage its sources to minimize public health risks linked to Arcobacter exposure in this region.”

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