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The accurate detection of pathogens in environmental matrices, such as sediment, is critical in understanding pathogen fate and behavior in the environment. In this study, we assessed the usefulness of methods for the detection and quantification of Vibrio spp. and norovirus (NoV) nucleic acids in sediment. For bacteria, a commonly used direct method using hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) and phenol-chloroform-isoamyl alcohol (PCI) extraction was optimized, whereas for NoV, direct and indirect (virus elution—concentration) methods were evaluated. For quantification, commercially available quantitative PCR (qPCR) and reverse transcription qPCR (RT-qPCR) kits were tested alongside a digital PCR (dPCR) approach. CTAB-based extraction combined with 16 h polyethylene glycol 6000 (PEG6000) precipitation was found to be suitable for the direct extraction of high abundance bacterial and viral nucleic acids. For the indirect extraction of viral RNA, beef extract-based elution followed by PEG6000 precipitation and extraction using the NucliSENS® MiniMag® Nucleic Acid Purification System and the PowerViral® Environmental RNA/DNA Isolation Kit and qRT-PCR resulted in 83–112 and 63–69% recoveries of NoV, respectively. dPCR resulted in lower viral recoveries (47 and 9%) and ~4 orders of magnitude lower Vibrio concentrations (3.6–4.6 log10 gc/100 g sediment) than was observed using qPCR. The use of internal controls during viral quantification revealed that the RT step was more affected by inhibitors than the amplification. The methods described here are suitable for the enumeration of viral and/or bacterial pathogens in sediment, however the use of internal controls to assess efficiency is recommended.


  • dPCR, sediment, qRT-PCR, pathogen detection, nucleic acid extraction, Vibrio, norovirus
Original languageEnglish
Article number53
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2017

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