Detection of Legionella, L. pneumophila and Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC) along Potable Water Distribution Pipelines

Harriet Whiley, Alex Keegan, Howard Fallowfield, Richard Bentham

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    42 Citations (Scopus)


    Inhalation of potable water presents a potential route of exposure to opportunistic pathogens and hence warrants significant public health concern. This study used qPCR to detect opportunistic pathogens Legionella spp., L. pneumophila and MAC at multiple points along two potable water distribution pipelines. One used chlorine disinfection and the other chloramine disinfection. Samples were collected four times over the year to provide seasonal variation and the chlorine or chloramine residual was measured during collection. Legionella spp., L. pneumophila and MAC were detected in both distribution systems throughout the year and were all detected at a maximum concentration of 103 copies/mL in the chlorine disinfected system and 106, 103 and 104 copies/mL respectively in the chloramine disinfected system. The concentrations of these opportunistic pathogens were primarily controlled throughout the distribution network through the maintenance of disinfection residuals. At a dead-end and when the disinfection residual was not maintained significant (p < 0.05) increases in concentration were observed when compared to the concentration measured closest to the processing plant in the same pipeline and sampling period. Total coliforms were not present in any water sample collected. This study demonstrates the ability of Legionella spp., L. pneumophila and MAC to survive the potable water disinfection process and highlights the need for greater measures to control these organisms along the distribution pipeline and at point of use.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7393-7405
    Number of pages13
    JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2014


    • Distribution systems
    • L. pneumophila
    • Legionella
    • Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC)
    • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM)
    • Potable water
    • Public health


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