- Soils in household environments in low- and middle-income countries may play an important role in the persistence, proliferation, and transmission of Escherichia coli. Our goal was to investigate the risk factors for detection, survival, and growth of E. coli in soils collected from household plots. E. coli was enumerated in soil and fecal samples from humans, chickens, and cattle from 52 households in rural Bangladesh. Associations between E. coli concentrations in soil, household-level risk factors, and soil physicochemical characteristics were investigated. Susceptibility to 16 antibiotics and the presence of intestinal pathotypes were evaluated for 175 E. coli isolates. The growth and survival of E. coli in microcosms using soil collected from the households were also assessed. E. coli was isolated from 44.2% of the soil samples, with an average of 1.95 log(10) CFU/g dry soil. Soil moisture and clay content were associated with E. coli concentrations in soil, whereas no household-level risk factor was significantly correlated. Antibiotic resistance and pathogenicity were common among E. coli isolates, with 42.3% resistant to at least one antibiotic, 12.6% multidrug resistant (>= 3 classes), and 10% potentially pathogenic. Soil microcosms demonstrate growth and/or survival of E. coli, including an enteropathogenic extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing isolate, in some, but not all, of the household soils tested. In rural Bangladesh, defined soil physicochemical characteristics appear more influential for E. coli detection in soils than household-level risk factors. Soils may act as reservoirs in the transmission of antibiotic-resistant and potentially pathogenic E. coli and therefore may impact the effectiveness of water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions.
IMPORTANCE Soil may represent a direct source or act as an intermediary for the transmission of antibiotic-resistant and pathogenic Escherichia coli strains, particularly in low-income and rural settings. Thus, determining risk factors associated with detection, growth, and long-term survival of E. coli in soil environments is important for public health. Here, we demonstrate that household soils in rural Bangladesh are reservoirs for antibiotic-resistant and potentially pathogenic E. coli strains and can support E. coli growth and survival, and defined soil physicochemical characteristics are drivers of E. coli survival in this environment. In contrast, we found no evidence that household-level factors, including water, sanitation, and hygiene indicators, were associated with E. coli contamination of household soils.