Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Biology (Integrative Biology)

Major Professor

Valerie J. Harwood, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

John Lisle, Ph.D.

Committee Member

K.T. Scott, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Degeng Wang, Ph.D.


real-time PCR, human-associated, indicator, microbial source tracking, environmental effects


Microbial water quality is generally assessed using fecal indictor organisms; however host-specific microbial source tracking (MST) methodologies can be employed to differentiate sources of fecal pollution. The central goal of this research was to develop and validate a QPCR assay for the quantification of two human-specific polyomaviruses (HPyVs) in environmental water samples. These viruses are prevalent worldwide and produce lifelong, asymptomatic viruria in immunocompetent individuals.

A Taqman® quantitative PCR (QPCR) assay based on the conserved T-antigen of two HPyVs (JCV and BKV) was developed and optimized (Chapter 2). HPyVs were detected in a high proportion of human-associated waste samples (e.g. sewage) and were not detected in animal excrement samples (Chapter 2). The effects of ultraviolet radiation, temperature, and salinity on the persistence of HPyVs in water were reported in Chapter 3. Laboratory studies analyzing the effects of various UV doses, temperatures, and/or salinities demonstrated high doses of UV were required to significantly decrease the detection of HPyVs DNA and salinity stabilized pure cultures of HPyVs virus particles at high temperatures (25°C and 35°C). Solar radiation as well as potential

predation from microorganisms in sewage significantly reduced the persistence of HPyVs DNA in outdoor mesocosm studies (Chapter 3).

An improved method to extract human polyomavirus (HPyVs) DNA from environmental water samples was developed, and the recoveries were larger and more consistent over a range of DNA concentrations as compared to the standard protocol (Chapter 4). In the California beaches study (Chapter 4), the presence of HPyVs by either QPCR or PCR had a high degree of matching results with the adenoviruses (83-91%), Methanobrevibacter smithii marker (82-92%) and moderate degree of matching results with the human-associated Bacteroidales spp. marker (57-80%) (Chapter 4). HPyVs were detected in the presence of various pathogens including: Giardia spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Vibrio spp., enteroviruses, and noroviruses (Chapter 5).

The presence of HPyVs in relatively high concentrations of sewage and the specificity of HPyVs combined with the relatively conservative persistence of HPyVs when exposed to environmental conditions and the correlation of HPyVs with pathogens demonstrates that this assay is a useful MST method to detect human sewage.