Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Microbiology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Persistence of Bacteroides ovatus under simulated sunlight irradiation

Shengkun Dong1, Pei-Ying Hong2* and Thanh H Nguyen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 205 N. Mathews, 3230 Newmark Lab, Urbana, IL 61801, USA

2 Water Desalination and Reuse Center, Environmental Science and Engineering Program, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), 4700 King Abdullah Boulevard, Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:178  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-178

Published: 4 July 2014



Bacteroides ovatus, a member of the genus Bacteroides, is considered for use in molecular-based methods as a general fecal indicator. However, knowledge on its fate and persistence after a fecal contamination event remains limited. In this study, the persistence of B. ovatus was evaluated under simulated sunlight exposure and in conditions similar to freshwater and seawater. By combining propidium monoazide (PMA) treatment and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) detection, the decay rates of B. ovatus were determined in the presence and absence of exogenous photosensitizers and in salinity up to 39.5 parts per thousand at 27°C.


UVB was found to be important for B. ovatus decay, averaging a 4 log10 of decay over 6 h of exposure without the presence of extracellular photosensitizers. The addition of NaNO2, an exogenous sensitizer producing hydroxyl radicals, did not significantly change the decay rate of B. ovatus in both low and high salinity water, while the exogenous sensitizer algae organic matter (AOM) slowed down the decay of B. ovatus in low salinity water. At seawater salinity, the decay rate of B. ovatus was slower than that in low salinity water, except when both NaNO2 and AOM were present.


The results of laboratory experiments suggest that if B. ovatus is released into either freshwater or seawater environment in the evening, 50% of it may be intact by the next morning; if it is released at noon, only 50% may be intact after a mere 5 min of full spectrum irradiation on a clear day. This study provides a mechanistic understanding to some of the important environmental relevant factors that influenced the inactivation kinetics of B. ovatus in the presence of sunlight irradiation, and would facilitate the use of B. ovatus to indicate the occurrence of fecal contamination.

Bacteroides ovatus; Sunlight irradiation; Fate and persistence; Seawater; Freshwater; PMA-qPCR