Occurrence of non-fermenting gram negative bacteria in drinking water dispensed from point-of-use microfiltration devices

Erica Leoni 1,  
Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy
Department of Education Sciences, University of Bologna, Italy
Ann Agric Environ Med 2014;21(1):29–34
Introduction and objective. Many devices have been marketed in order to improve the organoleptic characteristics of tap water resulting from disinfection with chlorine derivates. The aim of the presented study was to assess the degree of contamination by non-fermenting Gram-negative bacteria (NF-GNB) of drinking water dispensed from microfiltration devices at point-of-use. Methods. Water samples were collected from 94 point-of-use water devices fitted with a filter (0.5μm pore size) containing powdered activated carbon. The microbiological contamination of water entering and leaving the microfiltered water dispensers was compared. The NF-GNB loads were correlated to Total Heterotrophic Counts (HPCs) at 37 and 22 °C, residua chlorine, and some structural and functional features of the devices. Results. NF-GNB were detected from 23% of supply water samples, 33% of still unchilled water, 33% of still chilled water and 18% of carbonated chilled water. The most frequent isolates were Pseudomonadaceae: Steno.maltophilia 30.2% of isolates, Pseudomonas 20.5%, Delftia acidovorans 13.4%, while the species more largely distributed was Ps. aeruginosa recovered from 13% of samples. The distribution of the various NF-GNB was different in the water entering and in that leaving the devices. Ps.aeruginosa and Steno.maltophilia were the predominant species in water leaving the microfiltration dispensers, probably due to their capacity to colonize the circuits and to prevail over the others. Recovery of NF-GNB was favoured by the reduction in residual chlorine of the supply water, occasional use, the absence of a bacteriostatic element in the filter and inadequate disinfection of the water lines. Conclusions. The presence of high concentrations of potentially pathogenic species of NF-GNB (Ps.aeruginosa, Steno. maltophilia, Burkhol.cepacia) in the water dispensed from microfiltration devices represents a risk of waterborne infections for vulnerable individuals. When these devices are used in environments such as hospitals, nursing homes for the elderly, etc., microbiological monitoring for the detection of NF-GNB is advisable.