JUL 08, 2016 9:20 AM PDT

Legionella a threat after Flint water crisis

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
By now, you’re probably all familiar with the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. In April 2014, Flint began sourcing its drinking water from the Flint River instead of the Detroit water system. Problem is, water from the Flint River was corrosive enough to degrade the water pipes, leaching lead into the drinking water.

What you may not know, however, is that outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease also accompanied this switch in water sources. The corrosive and organic components of the river water prevented it from being effectively decontaminated, letting pathogenic bacteria into the water supply.
 
Legionella bacteria are transferred through the water supply.
Legionnaire’s disease is caused by the Gram-negative bacteria Legionella pneumophila. Legionnaire’s a a flu-like illness that causes cough, fever, muscle pain, and headache. The mortality rate is around 10% (quite high for a water-borne disease), and 12 of 91 people infected died during the height of the Flint water crisis. Fun fact - Legionella got its name after it sickened people attending an American Legion convention in 1976 (221 attendees became ill, and 34 died).

Researchers sampled water from buildings in Flint before the city switched back to the Detroit water supply. About half of the buildings sampled had water that was positive for Legionella, compared to samples from other locations that had never sourced water from the Flint River.

The Legionella levels have decreased since Flint switched back to the Detroit water supply, but researchers warn that cases of Legionnaire’s could increase during the summer.

According to study author Otto Schwake, “the improved water quality that we and other groups are seeing in Flint has played a role in reducing the Legionella numbers … but the caveat is that Legionella likes hot temperatures. In March, when it’s still snowing in Flint, the tap water is still cold and that could have impacted our numbers. So it will be very critical to continue monitoring the system going forward into the hot months.”
 


Sources: American Society for Microbiology, Healio News, Wikipedia
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
MAY 30, 2021
Microbiology
The Mechanics of a Gliding Microbe, Revealed
MAY 30, 2021
The Mechanics of a Gliding Microbe, Revealed
Humans have been able to use machines to master movement, but there are many organisms that can get around just fine on ...
JUN 08, 2021
Microbiology
Virus Seems to Spread From Salmon Farms to the Wild
JUN 08, 2021
Virus Seems to Spread From Salmon Farms to the Wild
Chinook salmon can be infected by a pathogen called Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) that is thought to cause heart, liver, a ...
JUN 20, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
What Triggers a Sneeze?
JUN 20, 2021
What Triggers a Sneeze?
For most of us, a whiff of pepper or tickle in the nose will trigger a sneeze. The action can rapidly expel whatever mig ...
JUL 15, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Do Microbial Pathogens Have an Epigenetic Memory?
JUL 15, 2021
Do Microbial Pathogens Have an Epigenetic Memory?
Epigenetics are the parts of the genome that can affect the activity of genes but don't involve making changes to th ...
JUL 19, 2021
Microbiology
Engineering a Virus Trap
JUL 19, 2021
Engineering a Virus Trap
Viral infections are difficult to treat - antibiotics only work against bacteria - and there are few effective antibodie ...
JUL 22, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Great Lakes Fish Contain Record Levels of Microplastics
JUL 22, 2021
Great Lakes Fish Contain Record Levels of Microplastics
A new study published in Conservation Biology reports the highest ever concentration of microplastics concentrating in d ...
Loading Comments...