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Medical Laboratory Science

Characterization Of Bacterial Pathogens Associated With Domestic Water Contamination In Owerri Area




This study examined characterization of bacteria pathogens associated with domestic water contamination in Owerri area. Ten samples of water was collected from various sources of water in Owerri, they were bacteriologically analyzed using the Most Probable Number technique (Multiple tube), and the Pour-plate method (Total heterotrophic count) on nutrient agar, macconkey, and salmonella-shigella agar. While pour-plate method was used for the enumeration of total heterotrophic bacteria count, the most probable number index of coliform were determined, confirmed and completed using double and single strength MacConkey broth at 370c and 440c respectively.   Result was presented in mean  standard deviation, the total heterotrophic count ranges from 7.8 x 105cfu/ml to 6.1 x 105cfu/ml, total coliform count ranges from 4.1 x 104 cfu/ml to 1.5 x 104cfu/ml. Student t – test was use in comparing the mean between total heterotrophic count and total coliform count, the result shows that there is a significant difference between the mean P > 0.005. Bacterial isolated and identified on the basis of their colonial morphology included;Escherichia coli, klebsiella spp, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella spp were the organisms identified. Water is indispensable for human health and wellbeing; there can be no life on earth without water. In fact, the human body is composed of 70% water. However, that same water can cause harm to the body if not purified. There should be enlightenment programmes at federal, state, local governments and even town union levels to educate people on the dangers of consuming contaminated water. This should also include education on proper hygiene and good sanitary practices.



Bacteria are microscopic unicellular prokaryotic organisms characterized by the lack of a membrane-bound nucleus and membrane-bound organelles. Once considered a part of the plant kingdom, bacteria were eventually placed in a separate kingdom monera. Bacteria fall into one of two groups, Archaebacteria and Eubacteria. A recently proposed system classifies the Archaebacteria, or Archaea, and the Eubacteria, or Bacteria, as major groupings above the kingdom level(DeLong, 2001). They were the only form of life on earth for 2 billion years. They were first observed by Antony Van Leeuwenhoek in the 17th century and bacteriology as an applied science began to develop in the late 99th century as a result of research in medicine and in fermentation processes, especially by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch (Kandler, 1990).

Bacteria are remarkably adaptable to diverse environmental conditions: they are found in the bodies of all living organisms and on all parts of the earth, in land terrains and ocean depths, in arctic ice and glaciers, in hot springs and even in the stratosphere.Our understanding of bacteria and their metabolic processes has been expanded by the discovery of species that can live only deep below the earth’s surface and by species that thrive without sunlight in the high temperature and pressure near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor (Fredicksonet al., 2004).

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There are more bacteria, as separate individuals, than any other type of organism; there can be as many as 2.5 billion bacteria in one gram of fertile soil. Some bacteria attack the tissues directly; others produce poisonous substance called toxins and natural defense against harmful bacteria is provided by antibodies (Lang, 2000). Certain bacterial disease, e.g., tetanus, can be prevented by injection of antitoxin or of serum containing antibodies against specific bacterial antigens; immunity to some can be induced by vaccination; and certain specific bacterial parasites are killed by antibiotics, have emerged in recent years. Many believed this to be due to the overuse of antibiotics, both the prescriptions of minor, self-limiting ailments and as growth enhancers in livestock; such overuse increases the likelihood of bacterial mutations. For example, a variant of the normally harmless Escherichia colihas caused serious illness and death in victims of food poisoning (Lewis et al., 2005).

Pathogenic bacteria are bacteria which are capable of causing disease. Humans are generally most interested in the species of bacteria which can cause disease in humans, although these bacteria can also infect other animals and plants. Some notable pathogenic bacteria include Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Escherichia coli, among many others (Muller, 2012). Worldwide, these bacteria account for many illness and disease epidemics (W.H.O, 2009).Intracellular bacteria are pathogenic bacteria which always cause disease when they enter the human body, in contrast with conditional bacteria, which can cause infection and disease in certain circumstances. Many bacteria are conditional, taking advantage of happenstance like an open wound to duplicate themselves and spread disease (Bettelheim, 2014).

Opportunistic bacteria are bacteria which do not normally cause disease, but will if a patient has a compromised immune system. Many humans actually host large numbers of bacteria at any given time. These bacteria are known as commensal or “good” bacteria, because they perform some vital and useful functions in the human body. For example, commensal bacteria in the gut help to break down and digest food.Pathogenic bacteria can be spread through a human population in a range of ways. Air, water, and soil are all common vectors, and people may also pass bacteria directly to each other through physical contact or direct contact. Some bacteria are very adept at colonizing locations like door knobs and medical equipment, allowing them to move from person to another with ease while others are much less virulent, and will die off if they are away from human host for too long. Tuberculosis is one of the world’s leading killers, making it pathogenic bacterium of particular interest (Anaissieet al., 2012).

Bacterial pathogens are also responsible for intestinal problems such as chronic diarrhea, and they can cause infections in many parts of the body. Some are deadly like the Legionella bacterium, while others are relatively benign, especially if treatment can be accessed. One of the biggest problem in the developing countries is the proliferation of treatable bacterial infection which run unchecked through populations due to lack of access to medications and medical treatment (W.H.O, 2002). Treatment of an infection with pathogenic bacterium involves the use of antibiotics(drugs) which have been specifically formulated to kill bacteria but some bacteria have developed antibiotic resistance, with which they may not respond to many common antibiotics treatments (Thompson, 2000).

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Water is essential to life, but many people do not have access to clean and safe drinking water and many die of waterborne bacterial infections such as cholera, typhoid fever and bacillary dysentery. Microbiological water analysis is mainly based on the concept of fecal indicator bacteria, the main bacteria present in human and animal feces and the most important fecal indicator bacteria are presented (Teagase, 2014). An adequate, safe and accessible supply must be available to all. Improving access to safe drinking water can result in significant benefits to health and every effort should be made to achieve a drinking water quality as safe as possible (Copeland et al., 2013).

Many people struggle to obtain access to safe water. A clean and treated water supply to each house may be the norm in Europe and North America but in developing countries , access to both clean water and sanitation are not the rule, and waterborne infection are common. Two and half billion people have no access to improved sanitation;more than 1.5 billion children die each year from diarrheal diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the mortality of water associated diseases exceeds 5 million people per year. From these, more than 50% are microbial intestinal infections, with cholera standing out in the first place (W.H.O, 2003). In general terms, the greatest microbial risks are associated with ingestion of water that is contaminated with human or animal feces. Waste water discharges in fresh water and costal seawaters are the major source of faecal microorganisms, including pathogens. Acute microbial diarrheal diseases are a major public health problem in developing countries and people affected by diarrheal diseases are those with the lowest financial resources and poorest hygienic facilities. Children under five, primarily in Asian and African countries, are the most affected by microbial diseases transmitted through water. Microbial waterborne diseases also affect developed countries. In the USA, it has been estimated that each year 560,000 people suffer from severe waterborne diseases, and 7.1 million suffer from a mild to moderate infections, resulting in estimated 12,000 deaths per year (W.H.O., 2010).

Waterborne pathogen contamination in ambient water bodies and related diseases are a major water quality concern throughout the world. Pathogen contamination is a serious issue for almost all types of ambient water bodies, making its recognition and understanding essential (U.S.EPA, 2012). The United Nations identified improving water quality as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGS). Its target is to safe water by 50% by 2015 (WHO, 2011). Because of the overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change (IPCC, 2007), it is also important to understand how perturbations in weather patterns can potentially impact pathogen levels in water resources. To meet future demands of water for food, energy and ecosystems, increasing water storage structures must be a component of long-range planning (World Bank,       2010). Water-bornediseases (for example, diarrhea,gastrointestinal illness) caused by various bacteria, viruses, and protozoa have been the causes of many outbreaks (Craun et al., 2006). In developing countries such as those in Africa, water-borne diseases infect millions (Fenwick, 2006) and according to World Health Organization W.H.O. (2004), each year 3.4 million people, mostly Children, die from water-related diseases.

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According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) assessment, 4000 Children die each day as a result of contaminated water (UNICEF, 2004).  WHO (2010) reports that over 2.6 billion people lack access to clean water, which is responsible for about 2.2 million deaths annually, of which 1.4 million are in children. Improving water quality can approximately lower the mortality rate of waterborne diseases to about 4% (WHO, 2010).Although water borne diseases or water-associated diseases in developing countriesare prevalent, they are also a serious challenge in developed countries. A study by Arnone and Walling (2007), who compiled data of outbreaks in the USA (1986-2000), reported five thousand,nine hundred and five (5905) cases and ninety-five outbreaks associated with recreational water. The data also shows that gastrointestinal illness (GI) caused by variety of different microbes and germs which cause symptoms such as diarrhea,nausea,vomiting,fever,and abdominal pain, was responsible for about 29.53% cases.


Water for human consumption is required to be free from any microorganism that might be harmful to one’s health. The presence of biofilms in water distribution system may play a role in the presence of potential pathogens in the drinking water supply. Bacterial pathogens from domestic water posea high risk of infectious diseases such as cholera, Salmonellosis, Campylobacteriosis, Shigellosis, and Escherichia coli infections to humans when untreated domestic water is consumed, used for bathing, washing, and for recreational activities. Thus this research seeks to characterize the bacterial pathogens associated with domestic water contamination in Owerri, and to know the health risks associated with water pollution. 


Aim: This study has a major aim of characterizing bacterial pathogens associated with domestic water contamination in Owerri area.


  1. To determine the possible presence of pathogenic contaminants in domestic water in Owerri area.
  2. To identify and characterize the isolated pathogenic bacteria contaminants from domestic water.
  3. To know the health implications associated with these pathogenic bacteria.

Pages:  151

Category: Project

Format:  Word & PDF        

Chapters: 1-5

Material contains Table of Content, Abstract and References.

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