Living in New York comes with an understanding that in summer, your strolls will be accompanied by the unwelcome smell of dog poop in your nostrils every other block.
Across the United States, there are about 70 million domesticated dogs and not all owners are courteous enough to pick up after their dogs, leaving the rest of the population to be greeted by their dog's smell.
Not only is this an unpleasant experience, but it can be dangerous too. Dog feces can carry antibiotic resistant bacteria like certain strains of E. Coli. When left on the street, the feces can be swept by rain into the sewers, and in cities like New York, where sewage regularly overflows into the Hudson and East Rivers, can contaminate the water ways.
"The antibiotic treatment options are becoming increasingly limited and more costly," Dr. James R. Johnson, from the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, told TreeHugger. "Patients are going without effective treatment for longer due to unsuspected resistance."
Dogs are not the only animals who carry bacteria and parasites in their feces. Other wild animals and farm animals can also be carriers, so it's important for scientists to understand which animals are contributing most to the problem in order to implement effective measures to prevent the spread of diseases like E. coli.
Now, a new test has been developed to help scientists identify canine fecal contamination in waterways. The test uses genetic markers to differentiate between human fecal matter and dog fecal matter.
"Understanding this point would clarify whether efforts are warranted to prevent dogs from becoming or staying colonized with pathogens, or transmitting them to humans," added Johnson.