Quick post here on a hospital water sampling study in Italy that found much higher levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria (e.g. Legionella) in aerators than in the rest of the plumbing system. Reading this gives a really good sense of how complicated it is to maintain a sufficiently sterile water distribution system for immunocompromised patients in a hospital. Abstract below:
Objective. â€ƒOur aim was to evaluate the impact of aerators on water microbiological contamination in at-risk hospital departments, with a view to quantifying the possible risk of patient exposure to waterborne microorganisms.
Design. â€ƒWe analyzed the microbiological and chemical-physical characteristics of hot and cold water in some critical hospital departments.
Setting.â€ƒTwo hospitals in northern Italy.
Methods. â€ƒWe took 304 water samples over a 1-year period, at 3-month intervals, from taps used by healthcare personnel for handwashing, surgical washing, and the washing of medical equipment. We analyzed heterotrophic plate counts (HPCs) at 36°C and 22°C, nonfastidious gram-negative bacteria (GNB-NE), and Legionella pneumophila.
Results. â€ƒThe percentages of positivity and mean values of HPCs at 22°C, HPCs at 36°C, and GNB-NE loads were significantly higher at outlet points than in the plumbing system. In particular, GNB-NE positivity was higher at outlet points than in the plumbing system in both the cold water (31.58% vs 6.58% of samples were positive) and hot water (21.05% vs 3.95%) supplies. Our results also revealed contamination by L. pneumophila both in the plumbing system and at outlet points, with percentages of positive samples varying according to the serogroup examined (serogroups 1 and 2—14). The mean concentrations displayed statistically significant (P < .001) differences between the outlet points (27,382.89 ± 42,245.33 colony-forming units [cfu]/L) and the plumbing system (19,461.84 ± 29,982.11 cfu/L).
Conclusions. â€ƒThese results reveal a high level of contamination of aerators by various species of gram-negative opportunists that are potentially very dangerous for immunocompromised patients and, therefore, the need to improve the management of these devices.