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Distribution Systems as Reservoirs of Naegleria fowleri and Other Amoebae (PDF)

  • Author(s): Biyela, Precious T.; Ryu, Hodon; Brown, Albert; Alum, Absar; Abbaszadegan, Morteza; Rittmann, Bruce E.
  • Publications: Journal - American Water Works Association
  • Issue Date: January 2012
  • Volume / Number: 104, Number 1
  • Page(s): E66-E72
  • DOI:
  • Product Number: JAW_0075192
Full Text: pdf

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Naegleria fowleri (N. fowleri) is the etiological agent of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rapidly fatal disease. While PAM generally occurs after recreational exposure to contaminated water, two fatal cases of PAM were linked to a drinking water supply in Arizona. This study tested the ability of distribution system biofilms to be reservoirs for N. fowleri and other amoebae. When introduced to laboratory pipe loops, N. fowleri attached to biofilms and survived for five months. In two full-scale distribution systems, amoebic activity was detected in 67% of biofilm samples tested, irrespective of chlorination. Amoebic activity occurred mostly in locations associated with stagnant water and high bacterial counts. Legionella also were found in 65% of biofilm samples. Although N. fowleri was never detected in field samples, the observed risk factors - high bacterial counts, amoebic activity, and the presence of Legionella in biofilms - suggest that N. fowleri could thrive in both systems if introduced.

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