Opportunistic pathogens and faecal indicators in drinking water associated biofilms in Cluj, Romania

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Biofouling occurs without exception in all water systems, with undesirable effects such as biocorrosion and deterioration of water quality. Drinking water associated biofilms represent a potential risk to human health by harbouring pathogenic or toxin-releasing microorganisms. This is the first study investigating the attached microbiota, with potential threat to human health, in a public water system in Romania. The presence and the seasonal variation of viable faecal indicators and opportunistic pathogens were investigated within naturally developed biofilms in a drinking water treatment plant. Bacterial frequencies were correlated with microbial loads in biofilms as well as with physical and chemical characteristics of biofilms and raw water. The biofilms assessed in the current study proved to be extremely active microbial consortia. High bacterial numbers were recovered by cultivation, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Aeromonas hydrophila, intestinal enterococci and Clostridium perfringens. There were no Legionella spp. detected in any biofilm sample. Emergence of opportunistic pathogens in biofilms was not significantly affected by the surface material, but by the treatment process. Implementation of a water safety plan encompassing measures to prevent microbial contamination and to control biofouling would be appropriate.

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