Distribution systems as reservoirs of Naegleria fowleri and other amoebae

Precious T. Biyela, Ryu Hodon, Albert Brown, Absar Alum, Morteza Abbaszadegan, Bruce E. Rittmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Naegleria fowleri is the etiological agent of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rapidly fatal disease. Although PAM generally occurs after recreational exposure to contaminated water, two fatal cases of PAM were linked to a drinking water supply in Arizona. This study tested the ability of distribution system biofilms to be reservoirs for N. fowleri and other amoebae. When introduced to laboratory pipe loops, N. fowleri attached to biofilms and survived for five months. In two full-scale distribution systems, amoebic activity was detected in 67% of biofilm samples tested, irrespective of chlorination. Amoebic activity occurred mostly in locations associated with stagnant water and high bacterial counts. Legionella were also found in 65% of biofilm samples. Although N. fowleri were never detected in field samples, the observed risk factors-high bacterial counts, amoebic activity, and the presence of Legionella in biofilms-suggest that N. fowleri could thrive in both systems if introduced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-50
Number of pages2
JournalJournal - American Water Works Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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