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Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Apr 1;48(7):4038-47. doi: 10.1021/es4055725. Epub 2014 Mar 25.

Differential resistance of drinking water bacterial populations to monochloramine disinfection.

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Michigan , Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, United States.


The impact of monochloramine disinfection on the complex bacterial community structure in drinking water systems was investigated using culture-dependent and culture-independent methods. Changes in viable bacterial diversity were monitored using culture-independent methods that distinguish between live and dead cells based on membrane integrity, providing a highly conservative measure of viability. Samples were collected from lab-scale and full-scale drinking water filters exposed to monochloramine for a range of contact times. Culture-independent detection of live cells was based on propidium monoazide (PMA) treatment to selectively remove DNA from membrane-compromised cells. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) and pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes was used to quantify the DNA of live bacteria and characterize the bacterial communities, respectively. The inactivation rate determined by the culture-independent PMA-qPCR method (1.5-log removal at 664 mg·min/L) was lower than the inactivation rate measured by the culture-based methods (4-log removal at 66 mg·min/L). Moreover, drastic changes in the live bacterial community structure were detected during monochloramine disinfection using PMA-pyrosequencing, while the community structure appeared to remain stable when pyrosequencing was performed on samples that were not subject to PMA treatment. Genera that increased in relative abundance during monochloramine treatment include Legionella, Escherichia, and Geobacter in the lab-scale system and Mycobacterium, Sphingomonas, and Coxiella in the full-scale system. These results demonstrate that bacterial populations in drinking water exhibit differential resistance to monochloramine, and that the disinfection process selects for resistant bacterial populations.

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