Prior to entering the infection prevention world, I worked for almost a decade in a laboratory where we tested water, soil, waste water, air, and food, among other things. My focus and expertise were in the Environmental Division where we dealt with contaminated sites (water and soil testing), drinking water analysis, etc. My least favorite project was measuring, weighing, filleting and dissecting >200 fish in order to test for dioxin and other chemicals of concern. It was stinky and after the first night, the 2 college students who were supposed to help never came back….
Having lived and worked through one of the worst outbreaks associated with drinking water and understanding the need to ensure we have quality water to drink, I am always curious when I come across an article that impacts drinking water, particularly if bottled water is included, as bottled water does not have the same level of testing requirements as tap water (at in Ontario, Canada). So it was interesting when I read a recent article by researchers out of Thailand looking at Stenotrophomonas maltophilia isolates from environmental samples.
S. maltophilia is an emerging global multidrug-resistant opportunistic bacterial pathogen that is being found both in healthcare facilities and the community. Similar to many emerging pathogens, it is of particular concern for immunocompromised individuals as this pathogen is associated with a significant mortality. S. maltophilia is an environmental bacterium found in aqueous habitats, including plants, animals, foods, and water sources that has the ability to cause infections in a range of organs and tissues but is most commonly associated with in respiratory tract infections.
The researchers found that of the 360 samples taken, the majority of the environmental isolates were found in sink drains, drinking water and tap water. Of particular interest was the frequency of positive samples found from bottled water, which the researchers speculate could have resulted due to poor management of hygiene during the production of the bottle water. They also found positive samples from the machine filtered water which also highlights the importance of ensuring there is a preventative maintenance and monitoring program in place for on-site filtered water production.
My interest for this was of course the contamination in bottled water. We’ve become accustomed to grabbing bottles of water and most incorrectly believe that bottled water is safer than tap water. In some countries, without a doubt this could be true. However, in other countries, very strict regulations are in place to ensure that municipal water is of the highest quality and safety. The dirty truth is that bottled water manufacturers do not have to conduct much in the way of testing to ensure their product is as safe as the water coming out of our taps.
As with any study looking at the environment, it is both interesting and scary to learn about new emerging pathogens we need to be on the lookout for and of course the surfaces and areas we need to be particularly vigilant with.
Jae kan mai na,
PS – that’s see you later in Thai! Thanks Nuch (aka Big Sis)!