Indicator microbes correlate with pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and helminthes in sand at a subtropical recreational beach site

A. H. Shah, A. M. Abdelzaher, M. Phillips, R. Hernandez, H. M. Solo-Gabriele, J. Kish, G. Scorzetti, J. W. Fell, M. R. Diaz, T. M. Scott, J. Lukasik, V. J. Harwood, S. Mcquaig, C. D. Sinigalliano, M. L. Gidley, D. Wanless, A. Ager, J. Lui, J. R. Stewart, L. R.W. PlanoL. E. Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Aims: Research into the relationship between pathogens, faecal indicator microbes and environmental factors in beach sand has been limited, yet vital to the understanding of the microbial relationship between sand and the water column and to the improvement of criteria for better human health protection at beaches. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the presence and distribution of pathogens in various zones of beach sand (subtidal, intertidal and supratidal) and to assess their relationship with environmental parameters and indicator microbes at a non-point source subtropical marine beach. Methods and Results: In this exploratory study in subtropical Miami (Florida, USA), beach sand samples were collected and analysed over the course of 6days for several pathogens, microbial source tracking markers and indicator microbes. An inverse correlation between moisture content and most indicator microbes was found. Significant associations were identified between some indicator microbes and pathogens (such as nematode larvae and yeasts in the genus Candida), which are from classes of microbes that are rarely evaluated in the context of recreational beach use. Conclusions: Results indicate that indicator microbes may predict the presence of some of the pathogens, in particular helminthes, yeasts and the bacterial pathogen Staphylococcus aureus including methicillin-resistant forms. Indicator microbes may thus be useful for monitoring beach sand and water quality at non-point source beaches. Significance and Impact of the Study: The presence of both indicator microbes and pathogens in beach sand provides one possible explanation for human health effects reported at non-point sources beaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1571-1583
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Environmental/recreational water
  • Indicators
  • Sediment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Biotechnology


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