Drinking water distribution systems (DWDS) can host pathogenic amoebae, but the role of biofilms in supporting the occurrence of these organisms needs to be fully explored in the UK systems. The presence of amoebae and associated bacteria in biofilms attached to inner pipe surfaces was studied in an experimental full-scale chlorinated distribution system in the UK. Quantitative polymerase change reaction (qPCR) was used to identify and quantify amoebae, whilst the bacterial communities in the biofilms were characterised by sequencing the 16S rRNA gene. Despite the maintenance of a chlorine residual in the network (free chlorine ≥ 0.24 mg/L), several species of amoebae belonging to the genera Acanthamoeba
were identified in 30-day-old biofilm samples; however, no amoebae were detected in the water samples analysed. The dominant bacterial communities present in the biofilm samples were Variovorax
. These results indicate that the biofilm samples contained potential pathogenic amoebae and bacteria, such as Acanthamoeba
respectively, which implies a potential public health risk if the biofilms are mobilised into the bulk water. Several of the amoebae identified in this study are able to support the presence of resistant bacteria that can remain viable within these prokaryotic organisms until they reach people’s taps. The identification of the microorganisms associated with the pathogenic amoeba species in biofilms could be used to improve the surveillance of DWDS in order to protect public health.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.