The health significance of heterotrophic bacteria in drinking water

Lightfoot, N. (1997) The health significance of heterotrophic bacteria in drinking water. In: Sutcliffe, D.W. (ed.) The microbiological quality of water. Ambleside, UK, Freshwater Biological Association, pp. 35-42. (FBA Special Publications,5)

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Tap water is not sterile; it contains organisms which grow in water distribution systems or inside taps and their fittings. The absence of known pathogenic bacteria is assured by the absence of the indicator organisms but concerns have been raised in the past few years that drinking water fulfilling the standards laid down in the EC Directive ECC 80/778 may still cause disease. These concerns have arisen from several sources: the fact that a cause has been identified in only half of all suspected waterborne outbreaks of disease; reports have suggested that heterotrophic bacteria possessing single pathogenic mechanisms such as haemolysin may cause disease; reports of heterotrophic organisms causing water contact diseases in hospitals. These concerns led to a reappraisal of the pathogenic potential of heteretrophic bacteria, by carrying out an extensive literature search and review commissioned by the UK Water Research Company. This research identified many papers showing an association between drinking water and heterotrophic bacteria but only very few reports of suspected waterborne disease associated with the heterotrophs. The organisms demonstrating potential to cause disease were species of Aeromonas and Yersinia, but typing of organisms identified in patients and isolated from the water revealed very few similarities. The potential of Aeromonas and Yersinia to cause waterborne disease is thought to be very low and the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre database of laboratory infections due to these two genera of organisms was analysed to produce population-related incidences for each health region in England and Wales. Additionally a laboratory questionnaire revealed different levels of ascertainment of these two organisms in different laboratories of the Public Health Laboratory Service.

Item Type: Book Section
Title: The health significance of heterotrophic bacteria in drinking water
Personal Creator/Author:
Lightfoot, N.
Title of Book: The microbiological quality of water
Sutcliffe, D.W.
Refereed: No
Series Name: FBA Special Publications
Number: 5
Page Range: pp. 35-42
Date: 1997
Publisher: Freshwater Biological Association
Place of Publication: Ambleside, UK
ISBN: 0-900386-57-6
Issuing Agency: Freshwater Biological Association
Uncontrolled Keywords: Public health; Microbial contamination; Water pollution treatment; Bacteria; Bacterial diseases; Water supply; Water policy; Heterotrophic organisms
Subjects: Ecology
Item ID: 5319
Depositing User: Hardy B Schwamm
Date Deposited: 11 May 2011 12:03
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2011 15:05
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