Journal of Water and Health

Detection of Helicobacter pylori and fecal indicator bacteria in five North American rivers

Mary A. Voytek, Jon B. Ashen, Julie D. Kirshtein, Edward R. Landa, Lisa R. Fogarty


This study examines the use of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) as a predictor of the presence of Helicobacter spp. A combination of standard culture and molecular techniques were used to detect and quantify FIB, Helicobacter spp. and H. pylori from five North American rivers of different size and with different land use characteristics. Primers designed to amplify genes specific to Helicobacter spp. and H. pylori were evaluated for their efficacy in detection and quantification in environmental samples. Helicobacter spp. were detected in 18/33 (55%) of river samples. H. pylori was detected in 11/33 (33%) of river samples. FIB were found in 32/33 (96%) of river samples. When FIB abundance exceeded USEPA water quality standards for single samples, Helicobacter or H. pylori were detected in 7/15 (47%) cases. No numerical correlation was found between the presence of FIB and either Helicobacter spp. or H. pylori. This suggests that the presence of FIB will be of limited use for detection of Helicobacter spp. or H. pylori by public health agencies.

  • fecal coliforms
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • indicator
  • molecular detection
  • polymerase chain reaction
  • water quality