Faecal microbes can cause disease in humans (“pathogens”) if they come in contact with them. Microbial pathogens can also be concentrated by filter-feeding shellfish, posing a risk to people eating shellfish. Faecal contamination is monitored using “indicator” microbes that are present in the faeces of warm-blooded mammals (including people) and birds. The two common bacteria measured are E. coli (in freshwaters) and the Enterococci group (in marine waters).
View a factsheet on Faecal indicators