Heterotrophic monitoring at a drinking water treatment plant by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization–time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry after different drinking water treatments
The aim of this work was to assess the suitability of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization–time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) for routine heterotrophic monitoring in a drinking water treatment plant. Water samples were collected from raw surface water and after different treatments during two campaigns over a 1-year period. Heterotrophic bacteria were studied and isolates were identified by MALDI-TOF MS. Moreover, the diversity index and the coefficient of population similarity were also calculated using biochemical fingerprinting of the populations studied. MALDI-TOF MS enabled us to characterize and detect changes in the bacterial community composition throughout the water treatment plant. Raw water showed a large and diverse population which was slightly modified after initial treatment steps (sand filtration and ultrafiltration). Reverse osmosis had a significant impact on the microbial diversity, while the final chlorination step produced a shift in the composition of the bacterial community. Although MALDI-TOF MS could not identify all the isolates since the available MALDI-TOF MS database does not cover all the bacterial diversity in water, this technique could be used to monitor bacterial changes in drinking water treatment plants by creating a specific protein profile database for tracking purposes.