The presence of enterococci in lake and seawater in an 18-month survey comparing molecular (PCR and quantitative PCR) and culture methods was evaluated, as well as the possibility that zooplankton could act as reservoirs for enterococci. Samples of both water and zooplankton were collected monthly from a Lake Garda site and an Adriatic Sea site. In lake water, the positive samples numbered 13 of 54 (24%) by culture and 32 of 54 (59%) when PCR was applied. In seawater, they numbered 0 of 51 by culture and 18 of 51 (35%) by PCR. Enterococci were found either totally bound to plankton or totally in water, depending on the presence or absence of plankton, respectively. These results clearly indicate that the PCR assay is a powerful tool for detecting fecal indicators and pathogens in the environment, thus providing a much more sensitive method than culture.
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