Validation of the Enterococci indicator for bacteriological quality monitoring of beaches using a multivariate approach
To initiate cost-effective, sustainable bacteriological quality monitoring schemes for the ultimate goal of protecting public health, policy decision makers need to be provided robust, indigenous empirical findings that validate appropriate water quality parameters for inclusion in such monitoring programs. This was the first study that assesses the validity of enterococci as an ideal indicator for bacteriological BQM in Malaysia using a multivariate approach.
Beach water and sand samples from 7 beach locations were analyzed for a total of twenty-one microbial and non-microbial water quality parameters. A multivariate approach incorporating cluster analyses (CA), principal component analyses (PCA), and factor analysis (FA) was also adopted. Apart from the weak correlations of Staphylococcus aureus with concentrations of Vibro species (r = 0.302, p = 0.037) and total coliforms (r = 0.392, p = 0.006) in seawater, no correlation existed between S. aureus concentration and other parameters. Faecal coliforms failed to correlate with any of the tested parameters. Enterococci also correlated with more quality parameters than faecal coliforms or any other indicator. Multiple linear regressions highlighted a significant, best fit model that could predict enterococci concentrations in relation to other parameters with a maximum predictive success of 69.64%. PCA/FA clearly delineated enterococci and faecal coliforms as parameters that weighed strongly for BQM while Staphylococcus aureus, faecal coliforms and enterococci weighed strongly for beach sand quality monitoring. On the whole, higher correlations of enterococci levels with other parameters than was observed for faecal coliforms suggest that the former be considered a preferred parameter of choice for BQM in Malaysia.
Our findings provided meaningful evidence particularly as it relates to the correlation of Enterococci with pathogens and other non-microbial parameters. It also provided empirical data to validate the applicability of the enterococci indicator paradigm for bacteriological beach quality monitoring in Malaysia. We also provided policy decision makers evidenced based approach to parameter streamlining for optimized beach sampling and sustainable bacteriological quality monitoring.
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