Surface water used for produce production is a potential source of pre-harvest contamination with foodborne pathogens. Decisions on how to mitigate food safety risks associated with pre-harvest water use currently rely on generic Escherichia coli-based water quality tests, although multiple studies have suggested that E. coli levels are not a suitable indicator of the food safety risks under all relevant environmental conditions. Hence, improved understanding of spatiotemporal variability in surface water microbiota composition is needed to facilitate identification of alternative or supplementary indicators that co-occur with pathogens. To this end, we aimed to characterize the composition of bacterial and fungal communities in the sediment and water fractions of 68 agricultural water samples collected from six New York streams. We investigated potential associations between the composition of microbial communities, environmental factors and Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytogenes isolation. We found significantly different composition of fungal and bacterial communities among sampled streams and among water fractions of collected samples. This indicates that geography and the amount of sediment in a collected water sample may affect its microbial composition, which was further supported by identified associations between the flow rate, turbidity, pH and conductivity, and microbial community composition. Lastly, we identified specific microbial families that were weakly associated with the presence of Salmonella or Listeria monocytogenes, however, further studies on samples from additional streams are needed to assess whether identified families may be used as indicators of pathogen presence.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Microbiology (medical)