Microbiologists on the Trail of Polluting Bacteria

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Science  29 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5564, pp. 2352-2353
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5564.2352

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CLARKE COUNTY, VIRGINIA-- Court-ordered cleanups of thousands of polluted lakes, rivers, and streams have created a nationwide demand for methods to track waterborne bacteria and pathogens back to their origins. But the infant science of bacterial source tracking is beset by growing pains. Researchers have yet to agree on standard methods, and there is rancorous debate over the soundness of certain approaches. One scientist has even challenged the basic biological assumption underpinning the use of one common bacteria for source tracking (see sidebar).