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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Dec;71(12):8611-7.

Identification of bacteria in biofilm and bulk water samples from a nonchlorinated model drinking water distribution system: detection of a large nitrite-oxidizing population associated with Nitrospira spp.

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  • 1BioCentrum-DTU, Building 115, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark.

Abstract

In a model drinking water distribution system characterized by a low assimilable organic carbon content (<10 microg/liter) and no disinfection, the bacterial community was identified by a phylogenetic analysis of rRNA genes amplified from directly extracted DNA and colonies formed on R2A plates. Biofilms of defined periods of age (14 days to 3 years) and bulk water samples were investigated. Culturable bacteria were associated with Proteobacteria and Bacteriodetes, whereas independently of cultivation, bacteria from 12 phyla were detected in this system. These included Acidobacteria, Nitrospirae, Planctomycetes, and Verrucomicrobia, some of which have never been identified in drinking water previously. A cluster analysis of the population profiles from the individual samples divided biofilms and bulk water samples into separate clusters (P = 0.027). Bacteria associated with Nitrospira moscoviensis were found in all samples and encompassed 39% of the sequenced clones in the bulk water and 25% of the biofilm community. The close association with Nitrospira suggested that a large part of the population had an autotrophic metabolism using nitrite as an electron donor. To test this hypothesis, nitrite was added to biofilm and bulk water samples, and the utilization was monitored during 15 days. A first-order decrease in nitrite concentration was observed for all samples with a rate corresponding to 0.5 x 10(5) to 2 x 10(5) nitrifying cells/ml in the bulk water and 3 x 10(5) cells/cm(2) on the pipe surface. The finding of an abundant nitrite-oxidizing microbial population suggests that nitrite is an important substrate in this system, potentially as a result of the low assimilable organic carbon concentration. This finding implies that microbial communities in water distribution systems may control against elevated nitrite concentrations but also contain large indigenous populations that are capable of assisting the depletion of disinfection agents like chloramines.

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