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Household Microbial Water Quality Testing in a Peruvian Demographic and Health Survey: Evaluation of the Compartment Bag Test for Escherichia coli

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  • 1 Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • 2 U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, District of Columbia.
  • 3 ICF Macro, Beltsville, Maryland.
  • 4 School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 5 Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática, Lima, Peru.

The Joint Monitoring Program relies on household surveys to classify access to improved water sources instead of measuring microbiological quality. The aim of this research was to pilot a novel test for Escherichia coli quantification of household drinking water in the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) in Peru. In the Compartment Bag Test (CBT), a 100-mL water sample is supplemented with chromogenic medium to support the growth of E. coli, poured into a bag with compartments, and incubated. A color change indicates E. coli growth, and the concentration of E. coli/100 mL is estimated as a most probable number. Triplicate water samples from 704 households were collected; one sample was analyzed in the field using the CBT, another replicate sample using the CBT was analyzed by reference laboratories, and one sample using membrane filtration (MF) was analyzed by reference laboratories. There were no statistically significant differences in E. coli concentrations between the field and laboratory CBT results, or when compared with MF results. These results suggest that the CBT for E. coli is an effective method to quantify fecal bacteria in household drinking water. The CBT can be incorporated into DHS and other national household surveys as a direct measure of drinking water safety based on microbial quality to better document access to safe drinking water.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Alice Wang, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 166 Rosenau Hall, CB 7431, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. E-mail: walice@live.unc.edu

Financial support: This work was supported in part by MEASURE Evaluation, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—at the time of this research through cooperative agreement GHA-A-00-08-00003-00—and implemented by the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the U.S. government. Lanakila McMahan was supported in part by a STAR Graduate Fellowship from US EPA.

Authors' addresses: Alice Wang and Mark D. Sobsey, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, E-mails: walice@live.unc.edu and sobsey@email.unc.edu. Lanakila McMahan, U.S. Agency for International Development, Grand Challenges for Development, Washington, DC, E-mail: kumcmahan@gmail.com. Shea Rutstein, ICF International, The Demographics and Health Surveys Program, Fairfax, VA, E-mail: shea.rutstein@icfi.com. Christine Stauber, Institute of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, E-mail: cstauber@gsu.edu. Jorge Reyes, Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática, Encuesta Demografica y de Salud Familiar, Lima, Peru, E-mail: sreyes@terra.com.pe.

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