The occurrence of Burkholderia pseudomallei in source water of Darwin region water supplies

Project: Research

Project Details


The challenge:
Water suppliers in Northern Australia face additional challenges to keep drinking water free of opportunistic pathogens. One such opportunistic pathogen endemic to tropical Australia is the environmental bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. It causes the potentially fatal disease melioidosis in humans and animals, with the NT recording 1,052 cases over the last 28y with 128 deaths. Drinking water-associated melioidosis cases and deaths have been reported in two remote communities in North Australia. Some source water also has naturally high levels of iron and we detected many so-called nuisance bacteria incl. iron-cycling bacteria in these samples. These bacteria are known to form prolific biofilms which not only increase the chlorine demand but also block pipes and potentially harbor opportunistic pathogens such as B. pseudomallei.
What we're doing:
This project aims to improve the understanding of B. pseudomallei and nuisance bacteria in source and drinking water in the Top End of Australia. We will investigate the microbial profile and occurrence of B. pseudomallei in bore water and water storage tanks over time and sequence B. pseudomallei isolates to assess their relatedness and population dynamics. We will also conduct chlorination trials on different B. pseudomallei isolates and assess the growth of microbes over time on coupons in water infrastructure using modified Robbins devices.
How it helps:
Findings of this study will assist in improving management guidelines to minimize the occurrence of B. pseudomallei, biofilms and nuisance bacteria in drinking water systems in northern Australia. Ultimately, a multiple barrier approach is needed to safely control the risk of pathogen exposure.
Short titleOpportunistic pathogens in water supplies in Northern Australia
Effective start/end date1/01/1931/12/21


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