Common Features of Opportunistic Premise Plumbing Pathogens
Falkinham, Joseph O.
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Recently it has been estimated that the annual cost of diseases caused by the waterborne pathogens Legionella pneumonia, Mycobacterium avium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa is $500 million. For the period 2001–2012, the estimated cost of hospital admissions for nontuberculous mycobacterial pulmonary disease, the majority caused by M. avium, was almost $1 billion. These three waterborne opportunistic pathogens are normal inhabitants of drinking water—not contaminants—that share a number of key characteristics that predispose them to survival, persistence, and growth in drinking water distribution systems and premise plumbing. Herein, I list and describe these shared characteristics that include: disinfectant-resistance, biofilm-formation, growth in amoebae, growth at low organic carbon concentrations (oligotrophic), and growth under conditions of stagnation. This review is intended to increase awareness of OPPPs, identify emerging OPPPs, and challenge the drinking water industry to develop novel approaches toward their control.