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Sequence Variation among Group III F-Specific RNA Coliphages from Water Samples and Swine Lagoons


Stewart, Jill R.; Vinje, Jan; Oudejans, Sjon J. G.; Scott, Geoffrey I.; & Sobsey, Mark D. (2006). Sequence Variation among Group III F-Specific RNA Coliphages from Water Samples and Swine Lagoons. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 72(2), 1226-1230. PMCID: PMC1392895


Typing of F-specific RNA (FRNA) coliphages has been proposed as a useful method for distinguishing human from animal fecal contamination in environmental samples. Group II and III FRNA coliphages are generally associated with human wastes, but several exceptions have been noted. In the present study, we have genotyped and partially sequenced group III FRNA coliphage field isolates from swine lagoons in North Carolina (NC) and South Carolina (SC), along with isolates from surface waters and municipal wastewaters. Phylogenetic analysis of a region of the 5' end of the maturation protein gene revealed two genetically different group III FRNA subclusters with 36.6% sequence variation. The SC swine lagoon isolates were more closely related to group III prototype virus M11, whereas the isolates from a swine lagoon in NC, surface waters, and wastewaters grouped with prototype virus Q-beta. These results suggest that refining phage genotyping systems to discriminate M11-like phages from Q-beta-like phages would not necessarily provide greater discriminatory power in distinguishing human from animal sources of pollution. Within the group III subclusters, nucleotide sequence diversity ranged from 0% to 6.9% for M11-like strains and from 0% to 8.7% for Q-beta-like strains. It is demonstrated here that nucleotide sequencing of closely related FRNA strains can be used to help track sources of contamination in surface waters. A similar use of phage genomic sequence information to track fecal pollution promises more reliable results than phage typing by nucleic acid hybridization and may hold more potential for field applications.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Applied and Environmental Microbiology


Stewart, Jill R.
Vinje, Jan
Oudejans, Sjon J. G.
Scott, Geoffrey I.
Sobsey, Mark D.