Faeces of humans, pigs, cattle and chickens were investigated for the presence of somatic coliphages, F-specific bacteriophages and Escherichia coli strains sensitive to infection by F-specific phages. Attention was given to the possible effect of age and use of antibiotics on the prevalence of the FRNA phages and sensitive E. coli strains. Somatic coliphages were often detected in high numbers in all types of faeces. In contrast, FRNA phages were rarely detected in faeces from humans and cattle but more often in faeces from pigs and adult chickens. Samples from young chickens (with or without antibiotics) were consistently positive for FRNA phages (up to 3 x 10(6) pfu/g). F-specific RNA phages were found in substantial numbers (greater than 10(3) pfu/ml) in a variety of wastewaters: domestic, hospital, slaughterhouses and occasionally in 'grey water'. Their origin in wastewater was not clear. Strains from faeces usually belonged to serogroups I and IV. These types were also found in wastewater, as were group II and III strains. Serogroup II phages were abundant in wastewater of human origin but rare in faeces. Escherichia coli strains sensitive to infection by F-specific phages were common in faeces (overall 290/1081: 27%). No strains with fully depressed F-pilus synthesis were detected among the sensitive strains. It is concluded that the occurrence of F-specific RNA bacteriophages in water points to sewage pollution rather than faecal pollution; the mechanism of replication of these organisms in wastewater is not understood.