Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
02 Apr 2013
 | 02 Apr 2013

Application of DVC-FISH method in tracking Escherichia coli in drinking water distribution networks

L. Mezule, S. Larsson, and T. Juhna

Abstract. Sporadic detection of live (viable) Escherichia coli in drinking water and biofilm with molecular methods but not with standard plate counts has raised concerns about the reliability of this indicator in the surveillance of drinking water safety. The aim of this study was to determine spatial distribution of different viability forms of E. coli in a drinking water distribution system which complies with European Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC). For two years coupons (two week old) and pre-concentrated (100 times with ultrafilters) water samples were collected after treatment plants and from four sites in the distribution network at several distances. The samples were analyzed for total, viable (able to divide as DVC-FISH positive) and cultivable E. coli. The results showed that low numbers of E. coli enters the distribution sytem from the treatment plants and tend to accumulate in the biofilm of water distribution system. Almost all of the samples contained metabolically active E. coli in the range of 1 to 50 cells per litre or cm2 which represented approximately 53% of all E. coli detected. The amount of viable E. coli significantly increased into the network irrespective of the season.

The study has shown that DVC-FISH method in combination with water pre-concentration and biofilm sampling allows to better understand the behaviour of E. coli in water distribution networks, thus, it provides new evidences for water safety control.