Can incorporation of UVC LEDs into showerheads prevent opportunistic respiratory pathogens? - Microbial behavior and device design considerations

Water Res. 2020 Jan 1;168:115163. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2019.115163. Epub 2019 Oct 7.


Respiratory infections from opportunistic bacterial pathogens (OBPs) have heightened research interests in drinking water distribution systems, premise plumbing, and point-of-use technologies. In particular, biofilm growth in showerheads increases OBP content, and inhalation of shower aerosols is a major exposure route for Legionellae and Mycobacteria infections. Incorporation of UVC LEDs into showerheads has thus been proposed as a point-of-use option for healthcare facilities. Herein we have examined incongruities between the nature of OBP contamination in shower water and the hypothetical application of conventional UV disinfection engineering concepts. Effective UV dosing within showerheads must overcome significant shielding effects imparted by the biological matrices in which common OBPs reside, including biofilm particles and protozoan hosts. Furthermore, prevention of biofilm growth in showerhead interiors requires a different UV irradiation approach and is lacking in established design parameters. Development of showerhead devices is also likely to face a trade-off between bathing functionality and simpler form factors that are more conducive to internal UV irradiation.

Keywords: Biofilm prevention; Legionella; Mycobacteria; Point-of-use treatment; UV disinfection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria
  • Biofilms
  • Disinfection
  • Equipment Design
  • Legionella*
  • Sanitary Engineering
  • Water Microbiology