Detection of Helicobacter pylori by PCR but not culture in water and biofilm samples from drinking water distribution systems in England

C. L. Watson, R. J. Owen, B. Said, S. Lai, J. V. Lee, S. Surman-Lee, Gordon Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Aims: To investigate treated water distribution systems in England as a source of Helicobacter pylori. Methods and Results: Water and biofilms were obtained from 11 domestic and seven educational properties and from hydrants, reservoirs and water meters supplied by three water utilities. Samples were cultured on nonselective and antibiotic containing media combined with immunomagnetic separation concentration. Viable helicobacters were not detected in any of the 151 samples but Helicobacter-specific PCR assays detected DNA in 26% of samples from domestic properties, schools and hydrants with the highest frequency in biofilms (42%). Direct sequencing of six selected amplicons confirmed >95% sequence homology to H. pylori. Conclusions: While viable helicobacters were not isolated, evidence was obtained for the presence of Helicobacter DNA, including that of H. pylori. Biofilms on surfaces within water distribution systems may act either as sites for the passive accumulation of helicobacters or as potentially important reservoirs of infection. Significance and Impact of the Study: Our findings strengthen evidence that H. pylori may be transmitted through drinking water. However, there is currently no evidence that viable cells can survive the disinfection levels used in UK mains supplies and the health risk from this source remains unclear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)690-698
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Volume97
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Keywords

  • Biofilms
  • Distribution systems
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Helicobacters
  • PCR detection
  • Water

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