The H2S test versus standard indicator bacteria tests for faecal contamination of water: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Wright, Jim A., Yang, Hong, Walker, Kate, Pedley, Steve, Elliott, John and Gundry, Stephen W. (2011) The H2S test versus standard indicator bacteria tests for faecal contamination of water: a systematic review and meta-analysis Tropical Medicine and International Health, 17, (1), pp. 94-105. (doi:10.1111/j.1365-3156.2011.02887.x).


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Objectives: To assess the diagnostic accuracy of the H2S test for microbiological contamination of domestic water across different settings, as a basis for providing guidance on its use.

Methods: We searched a range of bibliographic and ‘grey’ literature databases to identify studies that had processed domestic water samples using both the H2S test and recognized tests for thermotolerant coliforms or Escherichia coli. We screened 661 study abstracts and identified 51 relevant studies based on 13 853 water samples. For each relevant study, we recorded the level of correspondence between the H2S and recognized tests, microbial testing procedures, details of the samples processed and study quality indicators. We conducted a meta-analysis to investigate the impact of testing procedures, study quality and sample characteristics on the diagnostic accuracy of the H2S test.

Results: H2S test implementation varied between studies, and the test’s diagnostic accuracy varied significantly and substantially between studies. Little of this variation was explained by testing procedures, study quality or the nature of the samples processed.

Conclusions:?Although in widespread use, our findings suggest that the diagnostic accuracy, particularly specificity, of the H2S test is variable. Optimal conditions for conducting the test remain unclear. As H2S test accuracy is low in a minority of these studies, we recommend that its performance be evaluated relative to standard methods, prior to its operational deployment in a new setting.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1111/j.1365-3156.2011.02887.x
ISSNs: 1360-2276 (print)
Keywords: water microbiology, water supply, environmental monitoring, meta-analysis, escherichia coli, coliform bacilli
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
Organisations: Population, Health & Wellbeing (PHeW)
ePrint ID: 196401
Date :
Date Event
22 September 2011Published
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2011 14:38
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 01:36
Further Information:Google Scholar

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