- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A water district board has voted to commit funds for more genetic testing related to E. coli in the Big Sioux River.

The river has been tagged for years as an “impaired water body” due to an overabundance of E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria. Swimming in the river isn’t recommended, and canoeing or kayaking in its waters is also considered risky, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1TAlQGg) reported.

Until last year, the river had not been tested for genes that can turn often harmless E. coli into a dangerous strain that sickens about 73,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

On Feb. 18, researchers from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology told the East Dakota Water Development District board about its testing results, saying they had found genes that can turn E. coli into a strain that causes sickness, and describing the results as “a little alarming.”

“We found Shiga toxin genes in levels that are equivalent to what you would see in Third World countries, where people are dying in massive outbreaks,” School of Mines graduate student Kelsey Murray said.

The district board voted to commit $25,000 to continue precision genetic testing, dependent on the city of Sioux Falls committing $100,000 to match it.

The new testing would examine the E. coli colonies present in the Big Sioux to determine whether they carry the Shiga toxin and other genes that commonly interact with E. coli bacteria in the water. It would allow the state to more accurately predict the human health risks posed by impaired water bodies.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com


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