• Characterization of Environmentally Persistent Escherichia coli Isolates Leached from an Irish Soil

      Brennan, Fiona P.; Abram, Florence; Chinalia, Fabio A.; Richards, Karl G.; O'Flaherty, Vincent (American Society for Microbiology, 2010-02-12)
      Soils are typically considered to be suboptimal environments for enteric organisms, but there is increasing evidence that Escherichia coli populations can become resident in soil under favorable conditions. Previous work reported the growth of autochthonous E. coli in a maritime temperate Luvic Stagnosol soil, and this study aimed to characterize, by molecular and physiological means, the genetic diversity and physiology of environmentally persistent E. coli isolates leached from the soil. Molecular analysis (16S rRNA sequencing, enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus PCR, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and a multiplex PCR method) established the genetic diversity of the isolates (n = 7), while physiological methods determined the metabolic capability and environmental fitness of the isolates, relative to those of laboratory strains, under the conditions tested. Genotypic analysis indicated that the leached isolates do not form a single genetic grouping but that multiple genotypic groups are capable of surviving and proliferating in this environment. In physiological studies, environmental isolates grew well across a broad range of temperatures and media, in comparison with the growth of laboratory strains. These findings suggest that certain E. coli strains may have the ability to colonize and adapt to soil conditions. The resulting lack of fecal specificity has implications for the use of E. coli as an indicator of fecal pollution in the environment.