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Survival of coliforms and bacterial pathogens within protozoa during chlorination.

By C H King, E B Shotts, R E Wooley and K G Porter


The susceptibility of coliform bacteria and bacterial pathogens to free chlorine residuals was determined before and after incubation with amoebae and ciliate protozoa. Viability of bacteria was quantified to determine their resistance to free chlorine residuals when ingested by laboratory strains of Acanthamoeba castellanii and Tetrahymena pyriformis. Cocultures of bacteria and protozoa were incubated to facilitate ingestion of the bacteria and then were chlorinated, neutralized, and sonicated to release intracellular bacteria. Qualitative susceptibility of protozoan strains to free chlorine was also assessed. Protozoa were shown to survive and grow after exposure to levels of free chlorine residuals that killed free-living bacteria. Ingested coliforms Escherichia coli, Citrobacter freundii, Enterobacter agglomerans, Enterobacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Klebsiella oxytoca and bacterial pathogens Salmonella typhimurium, Yersinia enterocolitica, Shigella sonnei, Legionella gormanii, and Campylobacter jejuni had increased resistance to free chlorine residuals. Bacteria could be cultured from within treated protozoans well after the time required for 99% inactivation of free-living cells. All bacterial pathogens were greater than 50-fold more resistant to free chlorine when ingested by T. pyriformis. Escherichia coli ingested by a Cyclidium sp., a ciliate isolated from a drinking water reservoir, were also shown to be more resistant to free chlorine. The mechanism that increased resistance appeared to be survival within protozoan cells. This study indicates that bacteria can survive ingestion by protozoa. This bacterium-protozoan association provides bacteria with increased resistance to free chlorine residuals which can lead to persistence of bacteria in chlorine-treated water. We propose that resistance to digestion by predatory protozoa was an evolutionary precursor of pathogenicity in bacteria and that today it is a mechanism for survival of fastidious bacteria in dilute and inhospitable aquatic environments

Topics: Research Article
Year: 1988
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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