The composition of planktonic prokaryotic communities in a hospital building water system depends on both incoming water and flow dynamics

Muhammad Atif Nisar, Kirstin E. Ross, Melissa H. Brown, Richard Bentham, James Xi, Jason Hinds, Tamar Jamieson, Sophie C. Leterme, Harriet Whiley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Downloads (Pure)


In recent years, the frequency of nosocomial infections has increased. Hospital water systems support the growth of microbes, especially opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens. In this study, planktonic prokaryotic communities present in water samples taken from hospital showers and hand basins, collected over three different sampling phases, were characterized by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Significant differences in the abundance of various prokaryotic taxa were found through univariate and multivariate analysis. Overall, the prokaryotic communities of hospital water were taxonomically diverse and dominated by biofilm forming, corrosion causing, and potentially pathogenic bacteria. The phyla Proteobacteria, Actinobacteriota, Bacteroidota, Planctomycetota, Firmicutes, and Cyanobacteria made up 96% of the relative abundance. The α-diversity measurements of prokaryotic communities showed no difference in taxa evenness and richness based on sampling sites (shower or hand basins), sampling phases (months), and presence or absence of Vermamoeba vermiformis. However, β-diversity measurements showed significant clustering of prokaryotic communities based on sampling phases, with the greatest difference observed between the samples collected in phase 1 vs phase 2/3. Importantly, significant difference was observed in prokaryotic communities based on flow dynamics of the incoming water. The Pielou's evenness diversity index revealed a significant difference (Kruskal Wallis, p < 0.05) and showed higher species richness in low flow regime (< 13 minutes water flushing per week and ≤ 765 flushing events per six months). Similarly, Bray-Curtis dissimilarity index found significant differences (PERMANOVA, p < 0.05) in the prokaryotic communities of low vs medium/high flow regimes. Furthermore, linear discriminant analysis effect size showed that several biofilm forming (e.g., Pseudomonadales), corrosion causing (e.g., Desulfobacterales), extremely environmental stress resistant (e.g., Deinococcales), and potentially pathogenic (e.g., Pseudomonas) bacterial taxa were in higher amounts under low flow regime conditions. This study demonstrated that a hospital building water system consists of a complex microbiome that is shaped by incoming water quality and the building flow dynamics arising through usage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120363
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Early online date15 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Engineered water system
  • Flow dynamics
  • Opportunistic plumbing premise pathogens
  • Potable water
  • Water stagnation


Dive into the research topics of 'The composition of planktonic prokaryotic communities in a hospital building water system depends on both incoming water and flow dynamics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this