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Drinking Water Pipes Full of 'Good' Bacteria

Swedish researchers say this natural biofilm helps keep drinking water clean

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking water pipes and water treatment plants host an ecosystem of "good bacteria" that help purify the water, Swedish researchers say.

Thousands of species of beneficial bacteria form a thin coating called a biofilm in water treatment plants and on the inside of water pipes. These bacteria play a much greater role in providing clean drinking water than previously thought, the researchers explained.

"A previously completely unknown ecosystem has revealed itself to us. Formerly, you could hardly see any bacteria at all and now, thanks to techniques such as massive DNA sequencing and flow cytometry, we suddenly see eighty thousand bacteria per milliliter in drinking water," said Catherine Paul, an applied microbiology and water resources engineering researcher at Lund University.

The presence of good bacteria in drinking water systems is "similar to what happens in our bodies. Our intestines are full of bacteria, and most the time when we are healthy, they help us digest our food and fight illness," Paul said in a university news release.

The study, published recently in the journal Microbes and Environments, could prove useful when water systems are updated and improved.

"The hope is that we eventually may be able to control the composition and quality of water in the water supply to steer the growth of 'good' bacteria that can help purify the water even more efficiently than today," Paul said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about drinking water.

SOURCE: Lund University, news release, Dec. 16, 2015

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