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The Microbath project (Microbiology of Bathing Waters, 1996-1999) was supported by the Standards, Measurements and Testing Programme of the European Commission and coordinated by the Institut Pasteur de Lille.

The objective of this European step-by-step collaborative project (16 laboratories involved) was to develop reference methods and characterise the performances of commonly used methods in EU for the enumeration of major accepted faecal indicators (E.coli and intestinal enterococci) in marine and fresh bathing waters.

Standard quality control protocols, including the validation and use of water microbiological quantitative reference materials (RM), are described find recommended to support Quality Assurance during collaborative studies in central laboratory and inter-laboratory trials.

A reference method for each parameter (E.coli and intestinal enterococci) is developed and proposed in order to minimise the risk of false positive and false negative counts to less than 5% on natural samples. The performances of these two reference methods are evaluated and validated with artificial (RM) and representative natural fresh and marine bathing waters from diverse EU origins.

Evaluation protocols for alternative methods compared to a reference method are developed and applied to 18 EU commonly used E.coli methods and 16 EU commonly used intestinal enterococci methods. Results indicate clearly that large divergences appear between these European methods in terms of reliability and reproducibility. As a consequence, it is concluded that on a quantitative point of view actual data on the microbiological quality of European bathing waters are very unlikely to be equivalent, comparable and reliable due to lack of references and inter-calibrations.

The project demonstrates the necessity and feasibility of collaborative studies, including both central reference laboratory and inter laboratory trials.

Additional information

Authors: DEMARQUILLY C, Universite de Lille II, (FR);MAIER E.A, EC Standards, Measurements and Testing Programme, Brussels (BE);SIMONART T, Institut Pasteur de Lille, Service des Eaux-Environment (FR)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR 19620/1 EN (2000), 101pp, Euro: Free of charge
Availability: Available from European Commission, DG XII Communication Unit rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 200, B-1049 Bruxelles (BE) Tel: +32-2-2950001 Fax:+32-2-2958220 email:
ISBN: ISBN 92-828-9741-9
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