Evidence for the role of copper in the injury process of coliform bacteria in drinking water

Appl Environ Microbiol. 1984 Aug;48(2):289-93.


Low levels of copper in chlorine-free distribution water caused injury of coliform populations. Monitoring of 44 drinking water samples indicated that 64% of the coliform population was injured. Physical and chemical parameters were measured, including three heavy metals (Cu, Cd, and Pb). Copper concentrations were important, ranging from 0.007 to 0.54 mg/liter. Statistical analyses of these factors were used to develop a model to predict coliform injury. The model predicted almost 90% injury with a copper concentration near the mean observed value (0.158 mg/liter) in distribution waters. Laboratory studies with copper concentrations of 0.025 and 0.050 mg/liter in an inorganic carbon buffer under controlled conditions of temperature and pH caused over 90% injury within 6 and 2 days, respectively. Studies of the metabolism of injured Escherichia coli cells indicated that the respiratory chain is at least one site of damage in injured cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cadmium / analysis
  • Copper / analysis
  • Copper / toxicity*
  • Enterobacteriaceae / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Lead / analysis
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Water / analysis
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Water Supply*


  • Cadmium
  • Water
  • Lead
  • Copper