Molecular survey of the occurrence of Legionella spp., Mycobacterium spp., Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and amoeba hosts in two chloraminated drinking water distribution systems

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Sep;78(17):6285-94. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01492-12. Epub 2012 Jun 29.


The spread of opportunistic pathogens via public water systems is of growing concern. The purpose of this study was to identify patterns of occurrence among three opportunistic pathogens (Legionella pneumophila, Mycobacterium avium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) relative to biotic and abiotic factors in two representative chloraminated drinking water distribution systems using culture-independent methods. Generally, a high occurrence of Legionella (≥69.0%) and mycobacteria (100%), lower occurrence of L. pneumophila (≤20%) and M. avium (≤33.3%), and rare detection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (≤13.3%) were observed in both systems according to quantitative PCR. Also, Hartmanella vermiformis was more prevalent than Acanthamoeba, both of which are known hosts for opportunistic pathogen amplification, the latter itself containing pathogenic members. Three-minute flushing served to distinguish distribution system water from plumbing in buildings (i.e., premise plumbing water) and resulted in reduced numbers of copies of Legionella, mycobacteria, H. vermiformis, and 16S rRNA genes (P < 0.05) while yielding distinct terminal restriction fragment polymorphism (T-RFLP) profiles of 16S rRNA genes. Within certain subgroups of samples, some positive correlations, including correlations of numbers of mycobacteria and total bacteria (16S rRNA genes), H. vermiformis and total bacteria, mycobacteria and H. vermiformis, and Legionella and H. vermiformis, were noted, emphasizing potential microbial ecological relationships. Overall, the results provide insight into factors that may aid in controlling opportunistic pathogen proliferation in real-world water systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amoebozoa / isolation & purification*
  • Bacterial Load
  • Chlorine / pharmacology*
  • Disinfectants / pharmacology
  • Drinking Water / chemistry
  • Drinking Water / microbiology*
  • Drinking Water / parasitology*
  • Legionella / isolation & purification*
  • Metagenome
  • Mycobacterium / isolation & purification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / isolation & purification*


  • Disinfectants
  • Drinking Water
  • Chlorine