Occurrence of motile Aeromonas in municipal drinking water and distribution of genes encoding virulence factors.

Research paper by Manuel M Pablos, Jose M JM Rodríguez-Calleja, Jesús A JA Santos, Andrés A Otero, María-Luisa ML García-López

Indexed on: 02 Sep '09Published on: 02 Sep '09Published in: International Journal of Food Microbiology


Aeromonas-associated cases of gastroenteritis are generally considered waterborne. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the potential microbiological risk associated with the presence of these bacteria in public drinking water. Over a period of one year, 132 drinking-water samples were monitored in León (NW of Spain, 137,000 inhabitants) for mandatory drinking-water standards and the occurrence of Aeromonas spp. Samples were taken at the municipal water treatment plant, one storage facility, and two public artesian drinking-water fountains. Because of low numbers of coliforms or Clostridium perfringens, the non-compliance rate with microbial standards was 3.8% whereas the percentage of positive samples for motile mesophilic Aeromonas was 26.5%. For all but two samples, Aeromonas was recovered between October and early March when the temperature was below 14 degrees C and the residual chlorine ranged from 0.21 to 0.72 mg/l. An apparent relationship was observed between rainfall and the incidence of Aeromonas. The 35 selected Aeromonas isolates were identified as A. caviae and A. media. The alt and laf genes were present in all isolates, the aerA gene was present in six isolates, and the four remaining genes investigated (hlyA, ast, stx1 and stx2) were absent. The combinations of putative virulence genes were: aerA(-)/hlyA(-)/alt(+)/ast(-)/laf(+)/stx1(-)/stx2(-) (82.9%) and aerA(+)/hlyA(-)/alt(+)/ast(-)/laf(+)/stx1(-)/stx2(-) (17.1%). None of the isolates bore plasmids. As Aeromonas strains harbouring two or more virulence-associated genes have the potential to cause disease by direct transmission via drinking water or by water use in food preparation, it would be advisable to control excessive numbers of these bacteria in drinking-water supplies.