Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment and OpportunistWaterborne Infections–Are There Too Many Gaps to Fill?

Richard Bentham, Harriet Whiley

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

13 Citations (Scopus)


Quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) is a relatively new approach in identifying health risks associated with the ubiquitous presence of pathogens and opportunists in the human environment. The methodology builds on experimental and meta-analytical data to identify measurable factors that contribute to, and can quantify, the likely extent of disease given a particular exposure. Early modelling was particularly focused on food-borne disease, and subsequently water-borne disease, with the emphasis focused on ingestion and its role in enteric disease. More recently, there has been a focus on translating these principles to opportunist waterborne infections (OWI) with primary focus on Legionella spp. Whereas dose and susceptibility are well documented via the ingestion route of exposure there is considerably less certainty regarding both factors when understanding Legionella spp. and other OWI. Many OWI can arise through numerous routes of transmission with greatly differing disease presentations. Routes of Legionella spp. infection do not include ingestion, but rather aspiration and inhalation of contaminated water are the routes of exposure. The susceptible population for OWI is a vulnerable sub-set of the population unlike those associated with enteric disease pathogens. These variabilities in dose, exposure and susceptibility call in to question whether QMRA can be a useful tool in managing risks associated with OWI. Consideration of Legionella spp. as a well-documented subject of research calls into question whether QMRA of OWI is likely to be a useful tool in developing risk management strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1150
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Drinking water
  • Manufactured water systems
  • Mycobacterium avium
  • Non-tuberculous mycobacteria
  • Opportunistic pathogens
  • Pseudomonas
  • Public health
  • QMRA
  • Risk assessment


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