Category Archives: Water Safety

USA – Ongoing lead, Legionella water issues in schools

Downtown Publications

CDC legionella

As students return to full in-person instruction, many Birmingham Public Schools continue to be plagued by locations where legionella has been found, as well as lead and copper, with remediation continuing in all affected buildings.

Reports have come in from Greenfield, Quarton, Beverly, Pierce, Harlan and West Maple elementary schools, Berkshire Middle School, and Seaholm and Grove high schools, indicating that while there have been improvements in the water quality at the schools since they were last tested last fall, continued remediation is still needed to eliminate all legionella from school plumbing. There have not been updates Derby Middle Schools or Birmingham Covington School.

According to communications from the school, “BPS is focused on the remediation of legionella while providing a lead-free source of drinking water for all staff and students. BPS will shift to cold water flushes to reduce copper and lead in the system in the coming weeks. All individuals should use water from home or bottled water until water filter stations are enabled again.”

At Groves, while legionella was found at more than 220 locations at the school in the first round of testing, following remediation and retesting, there are currently 79 locations were it was found.

Research – Hepatitis A outbreak with the concurrence of Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Poona infection in children of urban Vellore, south India – 2019

IJID Online

Background: Outbreaks of Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection continue to be reported from India, that have transitioned from hyper-to-intermediate endemicity. Hepatitis A and Salmonella sp. share similar routes of transmission and may co-infect individuals at risk. We report here an outbreak of hepatitis A with concomitant Salmonellosis from an urban settlement of Vellore in south India between July and August 2019.

Our findings highlight that Hepatitis A infection can present as sporadic outbreaks in communities with sub-standard water and sewage systems, along with the co-infection of other enteric infections such as invasive Salmonellosis. Thus, population-based surveillance for Hepatitis A is required in India, to identify populations and geographical regions at risk, and thereby potentially plan implementation strategies for Hepatitis A vaccination.

India – One dead and 14 fall ill in Andhra village, food poisoning suspected

The News Minute

Around 15 persons in Ternekal village of Andhra’s Kurnool district have fallen sick with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in the past four days, causing anxiety among the residents. One of the affected persons, a 62-year-old man named Venkatesh, died while undergoing treatment at Kurnool GGH (Government General Hospital) on Tuesday. Authorities have said that the illness could have been caused by consumption of stale food. Water samples have been sent to a regional lab to test for water contamination.

Research – Secret to how cholera adapts to temperature revealed

Science Daily

Food Illness

Scientists have discovered an essential protein in cholera-causing bacteria that allows them to adapt to changes in temperature, according to a study published today in eLife.

The protein, BipA, is conserved across bacterial species, which suggests it could hold the key to how other types of bacteria change their biology and growth to survive at suboptimal temperatures.

Vibrio cholerae (V. cholerae) is the bacteria responsible for the severe diarrheal disease cholera. As with other species, V. cholerae forms biofilms — communities of bacteria enclosed in a structure made up of sugars and proteins — to protect against predators and stress conditions. V. cholerae forms these biofilms both in their aquatic environment and in the human intestine. There is evidence to suggest that biofilm formation is crucial to V. cholerae’s ability to colonise in the intestine and might enhance its infectivity.

“V. cholerae experiences a wide range of temperatures, and adapting to them is not only important for survival in the environment but also for the infection process,” explains lead author Teresa del Peso Santos, a postdoctoral researcher at the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), Umeå University, Sweden. “We know that at 37 degrees Celsius, V. cholerae grows as rough colonies that form a biofilm. However, at lower temperatures these colonies are completely smooth. We wanted to understand how it does this.”

The researchers screened the microbes for genes known to be linked with biofilm formation. They found a marked increase in the expression of biofilm-related genes in colonies grown at 37C compared with 22C.

To find out how these biofilm genes are controlled at lower temperatures, they generated random mutations in V. cholerae and then identified which mutants developed rough instead of smooth colonies at 22C. They then isolated the colonies to determine which genes are essential for switching off biofilm genes at low temperatures.

The most common gene they found is associated with a protein called BipA. As anticipated, when they intentionally deleted BipA from V. cholerae, the resulting microbes formed rough colonies typical of biofilms rather than smooth colonies. This confirmed BipA’s role in controlling biofilm formation at lower temperatures.

To explore how BipA achieves this, the researchers compared the proteins produced by normal V. cholerae with those produced by microbes lacking BipA, at 22 and 37 degrees Celsius. They found that BipA alters the levels of more than 300 proteins in V. cholerae grown at suboptimal temperatures, increasing the levels of 250 proteins including virtually all known biofilm-related proteins. They also showed that at 37 degrees Celsius, BipA adopts a conformation that may make it more likely to be degraded. In BipA’s absence, the production of key biofilm regulatory proteins increases, leading to the expression of genes responsible for biofilm formation.

These results provide new insights into how V. cholerae adapts to temperature and will help understand — and ideally prevent — its survival in different environments and transmission into humans.

“We have shown that BipA is critical for temperature-dependent changes in the production of biofilm components and alters colony shape in some V. cholerae strains,” concludes senior author Felipe Cava, Associate Professor at the Department of Molecular Biology, and MIMS Group Leader and Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Umeå University. “Future research will address the effect of temperature- and BipA-dependent regulation on V. cholerae during host infection and the consequences for cholera transmission and outbreaks.”

Australia – Legionnaires’ disease cases up in Sydney

Outbreak News Today

CDC legionella

NSW Health is reporting an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases in the Greater Sydney area in December and January.

Seventeen cases of Legionnaires’ disease were notified across Sydney and in the Illawarra in January.

Health officials has not identified a specific source to date and reminds building owners to ensure cooling towers are properly maintained.

“Public Health Unit staff investigate each case of Legionnaire’s disease and no specific source has been identified,” Director of Health Protection Dr Richard Broome said.

Greece – Evidence for waterborne origin of an extended mixed gastroenteritis outbreak in a town in Northern Greece, 2019

Cambridge Core

We investigated a large gastroenteritis outbreak that occurred in Northern Greece in 2019. A case was defined as anyone presenting with diarrhoea and/or vomiting from 24/01/2019 to 04/02/2019. We conducted a case-control study (CCS) using random selection of participants >16 years of age, residents of town X, who visited the health care centre between 25-28/01/2019.

Moreover, we conducted a retrospective cohort study (CS) at the four elementary schools of the town. We collected clinical and water samples and the water supply system was inspected. In total, we recorded 638 cases (53% female; median age was 44 years (range 0-93)). Forty-eight cases and 52 controls participated in the CCS and 236 students in the CS. Both CCS and CS indicated tap water as the most likely source (OR=10, 95% CI, 2.09-93.4, explaining 95.7% of cases; RR= 2.22, 95% CI, 1.42-3.46, respectively).

More than one pathogen were detected from stool samples of 6 of the 11 cases tested (norovirus, Campylobacter jejuni, EHEC and EPEC). Water samples, collected after ad-hoc chlorination, tested negative. Technical failures of the water tanks’ status were identified. Our results suggested a waterborne outbreak. We recommended regular monitoring of the water supply system and immediate repair of technical failures.

Research – Legionellosis Caused by Non-Legionella pneumophila Species, with a Focus on Legionella longbeachae


CDC legionella

 Although known as causes of community-acquired pneumonia and Pontiac fever, the global burden of infection caused by Legionella species other than Legionella pneumophila is under-recognised. Non-L. pneumophila legionellae have a worldwide distribution, although common testing strategies for legionellosis favour detection of L. pneumophila over other Legionella species, leading to an inherent diagnostic bias and under-detection of cases. When systematically tested for in Australia and New Zealand, L. longbeachae was shown to be a leading cause of community-acquired pneumonia. Exposure to potting soils and compost is a particular risk for infection from L. longbeachae, and L. longbeachae may be better adapted to soil and composting plant material than other Legionella species. It is possible that the high rate of L. longbeachae reported in Australia and New Zealand is related to the composition of commercial potting soils which, unlike European products, contain pine bark and sawdust. Genetic studies have demonstrated that the Legionella genomes are highly plastic, with areas of the chromosome showing high levels of recombination as well as horizontal gene transfer both within and between species via plasmids. This, combined with various secretion systems and extensive effector repertoires that enable the bacterium to hijack host cell functions and resources, is instrumental in shaping its pathogenesis, survival and growth. Prevention of legionellosis is hampered by surveillance systems that are compromised by ascertainment bias, which limits commitment to an effective public health response. Current prevention strategies in Australia and New Zealand are directed at individual gardeners who use potting soils and compost. This consists of advice to avoid aerosols generated by the use of potting soils and use masks and gloves, but there is little evidence that this is effective. There is a need to better understand the epidemiology of L. longbeachae and other Legionella species in order to develop effective treatment and preventative strategies globally.

India – Adilabad medicos suffer from food poisoning, hospitalised

Telangana Today

RIMS Director Dr Banoth Balaram said 22 of the 70 students who had lunch developed vomiting, headache and nausea. They were admitted to the institution and their condition was stable.

They were admitted to the institution and their condition was stable. Water contamination could be the cause of the incident, he said, adding that 200 students attended classes on the first day of the reopening of the college.

District Collector Sikta Patnaik visited the institute and inquired about the incident. She instructed the RIMS authorities to take steps to avoid the recurrence of such issues in the future. The water used to cook the food was from a bore-well since there was a leak in the Mission Bhagiratha pipeline, sources said.

Portugal – Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in northern Portugal declared over

Outbreak News Today

CDC legionella

In a follow-up on the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the North Region of Portugal, health authorities have declared the outbreak over, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The outbreak in Póvoa de Varzim, Vila do Conde and Matosinhos counties, which began in late October, resulted in a total of 88 cases, including 15 deaths.

The source of exposure has not been identified.

Legionella bacteria occur naturally in the environment. Water containing Legionella can be aerosolized through cooling towers, showers, hot tubs, and decorative fountains, and can cause Legionnaire’s disease, a serious lung infection (pneumonia) when inhaled.

Research – Breakthrough in understanding ‘tummy bug’ bacteria

Science Daily

Scientists have discovered how bacteria commonly responsible for seafood-related stomach upsets can go dormant and then “wake up.”

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a marine bacterium that can cause gastroenteritis in humans when eaten in raw or undercooked shellfish such as oysters and mussels.

Some of these bacteria are able to turn dormant in poor growth conditions such as cold temperatures — and can remain in that state of hibernation for long periods before resuscitating.

University of Exeter scientists have identified a population of these dormant cells that are better at waking up, and have discovered an enzyme involved in that waking up process.

“Most of these bacteria die when they encounter poor growth conditions, but we identified sub-populations of bacteria that are able to stay dormant for long periods of time,” said lead author Dr Sariqa Wagley, of the University of Exeter.

“We found that this population has a better ability to revive when conditions improve.

“Our tests show that when these dormant bacteria are revived they are just as virulent and able to cause disease.”

The findings could have implications for seafood safety, as dormant cells are not detectable using routine microbiological screening tests and the true bacterial load (amount of bacteria) could be underestimated.

“When they go dormant, these bacteria change shape, reduce respiration activities and they don’t grow like healthy bacteria on agar plates used in standard laboratory tests, so they are much harder to detect,” Dr Wagley explained.

“Using a range of tools, we were able to find dormant bacteria in seafood samples and laboratory cultures and look at their genetic content to look for clues in how they might survive for long periods.

“It is important to note that thorough cooking kills bacteria in seafood.

“Our results may also help us predict the conditions that dormant bacteria need in order to revive.”

Working with the seafood industry, the Exeter team identified a lactate dehydrogenase enzyme that breaks down lactic acid into pyruvate, a key component of several metabolic pathways (chemical reactions in a cell).

The findings suggest that lactate dehydrogenase is essential both for maintaining bacterial dormancy and resuscitation back to an active form.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus usually grows in warm and tropical marine environments, although Dr Wagley said that due to rising sea temperatures in recent years it is now prevalent in UK waters during the summer months.

During the winter, it is not detected in the marine environment around the UK and it is thought to die due to the cold winter temperatures.

This study could explain how Vibrio parahaemolyticus is able remerge in the environment during the summer.

The study was partly funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional funding and support from Lyons Seafoods.