Bacteriological quality of drinking water from dispensers (coolers) and possible control measures

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Journal: J Food Prot 2006/12/26
Published: 2006
Authors: Baumgartner, A.;Grand, M.
Address: Federal Office of Public Health, Section of Microbiology and Biotechnology, 3003 Bern, Switzerland.

Three water dispensers (coolers) were bacteriologically monitored over a period of 3 months to evaluate their hygienic status. For this purpose, 174 samples of chilled and unchilled water were analyzed for levels of mesophilic aerobic bacteria and the presence of Escherichia coli and enterococci in 100-ml samples, and the presence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in 10- and 100-ml samples. Additionally, 12 samples from 20-liter plastic bottles of spring water used to supply the coolers and 36 samples of 12 different brands of noncarbonated bottled mineral water were similarly analyzed. Water from the coolers yielded aerobic plate counts of 3 to 5 log CFU/ml with a geometric mean of 3.86 log CFU/ml, whereas water from the 20-liter bottles had a mean aerobic plate count of 3.3 log CFU/ml. Aerobic plate counts for noncarbonated mineral waters were generally lower (13 samples, < 10 CFU/ml; 6 samples, 10 to 10(2) CFU/ml; 13 samples, 10(2) to 10(3) CFU/ml; 3 samples, 10(3) to 10(4) CFU/ ml; 1 sample, 2 x 10(4) CFU/ml). Although occasional professional cleaning of the coolers did not affect the aerobic plate count, P. aeruginosa was successfully eliminated 2 weeks after cleaning, with only one cooler becoming recolonized. Neither E. coli nor enterococci was found in any of the water samples tested. However, P. aeruginosa was identified in three (25%) of twelve 100-ml samples from 20-liter bottles of spring water; a similar frequency of 24.1% was seen for water samples from coolers. Overall, 35 (21.6%) of 162 water samples (10 ml) from coolers also yielded P. aeruginosa, suggesting potential growth of P. aeruginosa in the dispensers. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis typing and antibiotic susceptibility testing found 19 P. aeruginosa isolates from the coolers and bottles to be identical, indicating that a single strain originated from the bottled water rather than the surroundings of the coolers. Because P. aeruginosa can cause serious nosocomial infections, its spread should be strictly controlled in institutions caring for vulnerable people such as hospitals and nursing homes. Consequently, in keeping with legal requirement for bottled spring and mineral water in Switzerland, it is also advisable that P. aeruginosa be absent in 100-ml samples of cooler water.

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