Isolation, identification and reviewing the health effect of HPC bacteria in household point-of-use (PoU) water treatment devices: a case study, Ahvaz, Iran


In Ahwaz, a city in west southern Iran, the majority of households are using Point of Use (PoU) water treatment units. The heterotrophic plate count (HPC) bacteria were isolated from these units while they were mounted on water distribution system in order to determine the variations in HPC and diversity of the bacterial population using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Results showed that bacterial population regrowth in PoU units could increase HPC exceeding the limit of the 500 CFU/mL in outlet water. In around 70% of the input water samples, the HPC was less than 500 CFU/ml with a mean of 226.7 (CI 95%: 28.1–425.3). HPC in output treated water samples had an increasing trend from the start of the unit operation with a mean of 2416.4 (CI 95%: 1074.9–3757.9). Out of 49 detected bacterial strains, 20 strains were Gram-negative and 29 Gram-positive. Bacillus was the most frequent genes detected in inlet and outlet water samples. Most of the identified bacterial strains were opportunistic pathogens potentially dangerous for immunocompromised population. HPC population in PoU units significantly can be increased during a one-month period of operation, so replacement of the filters must be done regularly.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7


  1. 1.

    Al-Hwiesh A, Abdul-Rahman I, Al-Audah N, Noor A, Nasreldin M. A novel three cuff peritoneal dialysis catheter with low entry technique: three years single center experience. Urol Nephrol Open Access J. 2017;4:00143.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Allen MJ, Edberg SC, Reasoner DJ. Heterotrophic plate count bacteria—what is their significance in drinking water? Int J Food Microbiol. 2004;92:265–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Almasaudi SB. Acinetobacter spp. as nosocomial pathogens: epidemiology and resistance features. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. 2018;25:586–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    American Public Health Association. Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. Washington, DC, USA: American Public Health Association (APHA); 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Bartram J, Cotruvo J, Exner M, Fricker C, Glasmacher A. Heterotrophic plate count measurement in drinking water safety management: report of an expert meeting Geneva, 24–25 April 2002. Int J Food Microbiol. 2004;92:241–7.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Begley M, Gahan CG, Hill C. The interaction between bacteria and bile. FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2005;29:625–51.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Brinkman CL, Vergidis P, Uhl JR, Pritt BS, Cockerill FR, Steckelberg JM, et al. Polymerase chain reaction-electrospray ionization mass spectrometry for direct detection of pathogens and antimicrobial resistance from heart valves in patients with infective endocarditis. Journal of clinical microbiology, JCM. 2013:00304–13.

  8. 8.

    Ebrahimi SM, Dehghanzadeh Reihani R, Shiri Z, Mosavi SM, Memar MY. Bacteriological quality of water produced by household water treatment devices. J Mazandaran Univ Med Sci. 2015;25:8–18.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Fengyi S, Mingfang L, Zhang F, Peng L, Kai L, Xinhui X. Performance of microbiological control by a point-of-use filter system for drinking water purification. J Environ Sci. 2009;21:1237–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Garland JL, Mills AL. Classification and characterization of heterotrophic microbial communities on the basis of patterns of community-level sole-carbon-source utilization. Appl Environ Microbiol. 1991;57:2351–9.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Geldreich EE, Taylor RH, Blannon JC, Reasoner DJ. Bacterial colonization of point-of-use water treatment devices. J Am Water Works Assoc. 1985;77:72–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Guindon S, Dufayard J-F, Lefort V, Anisimova M, Hordijk W, Gascuel O. New algorithms and methods to estimate maximum-likelihood phylogenies: assessing the performance of PhyML 3.0. Syst Biol. 2010;59:307–21.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Health Canada (2012). Guidance on the use of heterotrophic plate counts in Canadian drinking water supplies.. Water, air and climate change bureau, healthy environments and consumer safety branch, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario (Catalogue No. H144-6/2013E-PDF).

  14. 14.

    Hosmann A, Ritscher L, Burgmann H, Oesterreicher Z, Jäger W, Poschner S, et al. Concentrations of cefuroxime in brain tissue of neurointensive care patients. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2018;62:e02164–17.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Inomata A, Chiba T, Hosaka M. Identification of heterotrophic plate count bacteria isolated from drinking water in Japan by DNA sequencing analysis. Biocontrol Sci. 2009;14:139–45.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Kassenga GR. The health-related microbiological quality of bottled drinking water sold in Dar es Salaam. Tanzania J Water Health. 2007;5:179–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Kersters I, Van Vooren L, Huys G, Janssen P, Kersters K, Verstraet W. Influence of temperature and process technology on the occurrence of Aeromonas species and hygienic indicator organisms in drinking water production plants. Microb Ecol. 1995;30:203–18.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Koch R (1883). About detection methods for microorganisms in water,in: GesammelteWerke von. ErsterBand,, 274–284.

  19. 19.

    Lateef A, Adelere IA, Gueguim-Kana EB. The biology and potential biotechnological applications of Bacillus safensis. Biologia. 2015;70:411–9.

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Lautenschlager K, Boon N, Wang Y, Egli T, Hammes F. Overnight stagnation of drinking water in household taps induces microbial growth and changes in community composition. Water Res. 2010;44:4868–77.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Lin W, Ye C, Guo L, Hu D, Yu X. Analysis of microbial contamination of household water purifiers. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2020;104:4533–45.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Mombini S, Rezatofighi SE, Kiyani L, Motamedi H. Diversity and metallo-β-lactamase-producing genes in Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains isolated from filters of household water treatment systems. J Environ Manag. 2019;231:413–8.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    NCBI. (2018). Bacillus pumilus: A ubiquitous soil organism [Online]. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Available:[Organism]&cmd=DetailsSearch [Accessed].

  24. 24.

    Olsen I, Snorrason F, Lingaas E. Should patients with hip joint prosthesis receive antibiotic prophylaxis before dental treatment? J Oral Microbiol. 2010;2:5265.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Oriani A, Marfil M, Zumárraga M, Baldini M. Prevalence and species diversity of nontuberculous mycobacteria in drinking water supply system of Bahía Blanca City, Argentina. International Journal of Mycobacteriology. 2019;8:138–45.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Pavlov D, De Wet C, Grabow W, Ehlers M. Potentially pathogenic features of heterotrophic plate count bacteria isolated from treated and untreated drinking water. Int J Food Microbiol. 2004;92:275–87.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Pepper I, Rusin P, Quintanar D, Haney C, Josephson K, Gerba C. Tracking the concentration of heterotrophic plate count bacteria from the source to the consumer's tap. Int J Food Microbiol. 2004;92:289–95.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Reasoner DJ. Monitoring heterotrophic bacteria in potable water. Drinking water microbiology: Springer; 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Reasoner DJ, Blannon JC, Geldreich EE. Microbiological characteristics of third-faucet point-of-use devices. J Am Water Works Assoc. 1987;79:60–6.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Rezaeinia S, Nasseri S, Farzadkia M, Esrafili A, Gholami M. Quality assessment of water produced by RO-based household water treatment using the HACCP system. J Environ Health Eng. 2017;5:23–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Rusin PA, Rose JB, Haas CN, Gerba CP. Risk assessment of opportunistic bacterial pathogens in drinking water. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 1997.

  32. 32.

    Sacchetti R, De Luca G, Dormi A, Guberti E, Zanetti F. Microbial quality of drinking water from microfiltered water dispensers. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2014;217:255–9.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Srinivasan R, Karaoz U, Volegova M, Mackichan J, Kato-Maeda M, Miller S, et al. Use of 16S rRNA gene for identification of a broad range of clinically relevant bacterial pathogens. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0117617.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Stackebrandt E, Goebel B. Taxonomic note: a place for DNA-DNA reassociation and 16S rRNA sequence analysis in the present species definition in bacteriology. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. 1994;44:846–9.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Stevens NT, Greene CM, O'gara JP, Bayston R, Sattar MTA, Farrell M, et al. Ventriculoperitoneal shunt-related infections caused by Staphylococcus epidermidis: pathogenesis and implications for treatment. Br J Neurosurg. 2012;26:792–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Thompson JD, Gibson TJ, Plewniak F, Jeanmougin F, Higgins DG. The CLUSTAL_X windows interface: flexible strategies for multiple sequence alignment aided by quality analysis tools. Nucleic Acids Res. 1997;25:4876–82.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    U.S. EPA. 40 CFR parts 141 and 142 drinking water; national primarydrinking water rules and regulations; filtration disinfection; turbidity, Giardia lamblia, viruses. Legionella and heterotrophic bacteria final rule US Environmental Protection Agency Fed Reg. 1989;54(124):27486–541.

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    U.S. EPA. LT2ESWTR, long term second enhanced surface water treatment rule. Washington DC, USA: United States Environmental Protection Agency; 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    U.S. EPA (2009). National primary drinking water regulations. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA 816-F-09-004, Washington, DC.

  40. 40.

    Wingender J, Flemming H-C. Biofilms in drinking water and their role as reservoir for pathogens. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2011;214:417–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was funded by National Institute for Medical Research Development (NIMAD) (Elite grant No.: 958403).

Author information



Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Simin Nasseri or Neamat Jaafarzadeh Haghighi Fard.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Talepour, N., Hadi, M., Nasseri, S. et al. Isolation, identification and reviewing the health effect of HPC bacteria in household point-of-use (PoU) water treatment devices: a case study, Ahvaz, Iran. J Environ Health Sci Engineer (2021).

Download citation


  • Bacterial identification
  • Drinking water
  • HPC bacteria
  • Point-of-use (PoU)
  • Water treatment
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)