Applied and Environmental Microbiology, November 2009, p. 7261-7267, Vol. 75, No. 22
Copyright © 2009
American Society for Microbiology
. All Rights Reserved.
Pepper Mild Mottle Virus
as an Indicator of Fecal Pollution
Karyna Rosario,1, Erin M. Symonds,1, Christopher Sinigalliano,2 Jill Stewart,3,4 and Mya Breitbart1*
College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg,1 NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and
Meterological Laboratory, Miami, Florida,2 NOAA National Ocean Service, Center for Coastal Environmental
Health and Biomolecular Research, Charleston, South Carolina,3Department of Environmental Sciences and
Engineering, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina4
Received 18 February 2009/ Accepted 31 August 2009
Accurate indicators of fecal pollution are needed in order to minimize public health risks associated with
wastewater contamination in recreational waters. However, the bacterial indicators currently used for
monitoring water quality do not correlate with the presence of pathogens.
Here we demonstrate that the plant
Pepper mild mottle virus
(PMMoV) is widespread and abundant in wastewater from the United
States, suggesting the utility of this virus as an indicator of human fecal pollution.
Quantitative PCR was
used to determine the abundance of PMMoV in raw sewage, treated wastewater, seawater exposed to
wastewater, and fecal samples and/or intestinal homogenates from a wide variety of animals. PMMoV was
present in all wastewater samples at concentrations greater than 1 million copies per milliliter of raw sewage.
Despite the ubiquity of PMMoV in human feces, this virus was not detected in the majority of animal fecal
samples tested, with the exception of chicken and seagull samples.
PMMoV was detected in four out of six
seawater samples collected near point sources of secondary treated wastewater off southeastern Florida,
where it co-occurred with several other pathogens and indicators of fecal pollution. Since PMMoV was not
found in nonpolluted seawater samples and could be detected in surface seawater for approximately 1 week
after its initial introduction, the presence of PMMoV in the marine environment reflects a recent contamination
event. Together, these data demonstrate that PMMoV is a promising new indicator of fecal pollution in coastal