Next-generation sequencing reveals fecal contamination and potentially pathogenic bacteria in a major inflow river of Taihu Lake

Kiran Kumar Vadde, Qiaoli Feng, Jianjun Wang, Alan J. McCarthy, Raju Sekar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Taihu Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in China and serves as an important source for drinking water. This lake is suffering from eutrophication, cyanobacterial blooms and fecal pollution, and the inflow Tiaoxi River is one of the main contributors. The goal here was to characterize the bacterial community structure of Tiaoxi River water by next-generation sequencing (NGS), paying attention to bacteria that are either fecal-associated or pathogenic, and to examine the relationship between environmental parameters and bacterial community structure. Water samples collected from 15 locations in three seasons, and fecal samples collected from different hosts and wastewater samples were used for bacterial community analysis. The phyla Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Cyanobacteria were predominant in most of the water samples tested. In fecal samples, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria were abundant, while wastewater samples were dominated by Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Acidobacteria, and Chloroflexi. The cluster analysis and principal coordinate analysis indicated that bacterial community structure was significantly different between water, fecal and sewage samples. Shared OTUs between water samples and chicken, pig, and human fecal samples ranged from 4.5 to 9.8% indicating the presence of avian, pig and human fecal contamination in Tiaoxi River. At genus level, five bacterial genera of fecal origin and sequences of seven potential pathogens were detected in many locations and their presence was correlated well with the land use pattern. The sequencing data revealed that Faecalibacterium could be a potential target for human-associated microbial source-tracking qPCR assays. Our results suggest that pH, conductivity, and temperature were the main environmental factors in shaping the bacterial community based on redundancy analysis. Overall, NGS is a valuable tool for preliminary investigation of environmental samples to identify the potential human health risk, providing specific information about fecal and potentially pathogenic bacteria that can be followed up by specific methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113108
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Bacterial pathogens
  • Fecal contamination
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Taihu watershed
  • Tiaoxi river

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