Increased flushing frequency of a model plumbing system initially promoted the formation of viable but non culturable cells but ultimately reduced the concentration of culturable and total Legionella DNA

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Abstract

Legionella is the causative agent of Legionnaires’ disease, and its prevalence in potable water is a significant public health issue. Water stagnation within buildings increases the risk of Legionella. However, there are limited studies investigating how stagnation arising through intermittent usage affects Legionella proliferation and the studies that are available do not consider viable but non culturable (VBNC) Legionella. This study used a model plumbing system to examine how intermittent water stagnation affects both VBNC and culturable Legionella. The model plumbing system contained a water tank supplying two biofilm reactors. The model was initially left stagnant for ≈5 months (147 days), after which one reactor was flushed daily, and the other weekly. Biofilm coupons, and water samples were collected for analysis at days 0, 14 and 28. These samples were analysed for culturable and VBNC Legionella, free-living amoebae, and heterotrophic bacteria. After 28 days, once-a-day flushing significantly (p < 0.001) reduced the amount of biofilm-associated culturable Legionella (1.5 log10 reduction) compared with weekly flushing. However, higher counts of biofilm-associated VBNC Legionella (1 log10 higher) were recovered from the reactor with once-a-day flushing compared with weekly flushing. Likewise, once-a-day flushing increased the population of biofilm-associated Vermamoeba vermiformis (approximately 3 log10 higher) compared with weekly flushing, which indicated a positive relationship between VBNC Legionella and V. vermiformis. This is the first study to investigate the influence of stagnation on VBNC Legionella under environmental conditions. Overall, this study showed that a reduction in water stagnation decreased culturable Legionella but not VBNC Legionella.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere32334
Number of pages13
JournalHeliyon
Volume10
Issue number11
Early online date4 Jun 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2024

Keywords

  • Building plumbing system
  • Flow dynamics
  • Free-living amoebae
  • Legionnaires' disease
  • Viable but non culturable (VBNC) Legionella
  • Water stagnation

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