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Fecal Pollution of Water
SANTO-DOMINGO, J. W. AND N. J. Ashbolt. Fecal Pollution of Water. Chapter NA, C. J. Cleveland (ed.), Encyclopedia of Earth . National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington, D.C., DC, , 1-12, (2008).
Fecal pollution of water from a health point of view is the contamination of water with disease-causing organisms (pathogens) that may inhabit the gastrointestinal tract of mammals, but with particular attention to human fecal sources as the most relevant source of human illnesses globally. Ingestion of water contaminated with feces is responsible for a variety of diseases important to humans via what is known as the fecal-oral route of transmission. Food, air, soil, and all types of surfaces can also be important in the transmission of fecal pathogens, and thereby implicated in disease outbreaks. Most fecal microorganisms, however, are not pathogenic. Indeed, some are considered beneficial to the host as they can outcompete pathogens for space and nutrients, complement the biochemical potential of the host’s gastrointestinal tract, and help in the development of the host immune system. Nonetheless, animal feces can also carry a number of important frank and opportunistic pathogens, capable of inflicting debilitating illnesses and, in some cases, death.