Application of Ribosomal PCR Probes to Detect Human-Origin E. coli Locally and Across the State

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Michael Pikaart

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For the past several years, Lake Macatawa has exhibited unusually high levels of Escherichia coli, which is a fecal indicator bacterium associated with the presence of other potentially pathogenic microorganisms. This project aims to characterize and identify the sources of E. coli in the Lake Macatawa Watershed in order to improve the water quality of Lake Macatawa. Water samples were obtained from 10 different locations throughout the watershed. IDEXX Quanti-trays®, mTEC agar plates, and real-time PCR were used to calculate E. coli concentrations, and Biolog GN2 MicroPlates™ were used to characterize isolated strains. Bacterial colonies were isolated from human stool samples in order to investigate human fecal matter as a possible source of contamination in Lake Macatawa. In addition, Hope College is one of several labs that have been testing a new real-time PCR-based method for monitoring water quality at beaches throughout the state of Michigan. Initial data suggest that this method produces variable results due to high levels of inhibition. In the future, increased understanding of the microbial contamination in the Lake Macatawa Watershed and Lake Michigan will lead to cleaner waters for recreational use.


This research was supported by the Robert J. Motzer '77 Chemistry Undergraduate Research Fund.

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