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also see Microbiology Tests

"Education is the best defense against infectious diseases"

The following table is a summary of only two groups of organisms (BACTERIA and PROTOZOANS - parasites)     that cause water-borne diseases and that can be found in North Georgia.

We will be adding other groups (ex viruses - West Nile Virus) and 1) descriptions of what they cause; 2) which are most problematic locally, 3) how to reduce the risk of getting sick from these diseases, and 4) other information as time permits. Please save this link to your "favorites" list and make return visits at your convenience. Also, please note that several of the organisms in this table can also be found on the Bioterrorism Page.

Flesh eating bacteria such as E. coli OH157 and MRSA are now known to be transmitted through water as well. MRSA is already resistant to our most effective antibiotics (as are some of the other organisms listed below) and therefore almost impossible to treat. Both are very aggressive and can easily become life threatening in a matter of days.



Reservoir (Where They Can Live and Grow)


Bacteria = Group 1



Aeromonas hydrophila

Free living (can live outside other animals or plants, ex in standing water)

Can be associated with cellulitis (“flesh eating”), gastroenteritis (stomach and intestinal problems, diarrhea) and other diseases


Birds and animals

Major cause of diarrhea; common in processed poultry

Helicobacter pylori

Free living; don’t know much about which animals may contain them

Causes type B gastritis (stomach upset), peptic (stomach) ulcers, stomach cancers

Legionella pneumophila

Free living and associated with protozoans; cooling towers, showers, standing water

Fatal pneumonia can be acquired by inhaling spray


Infected animals

Hemorrhagic (internal and external bleeding and bruising) effects; jaundice (yellow eyes and skin)


Infected animals and free living

Tuberculosis; leprosy;

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Free living, ponds, lakes, standing water

Swimmers ear; pink eye, skin rashes

Salmonella enteriditis

Animal intestinal tracts

Common in many waters; diarrhea; “food poisoning”

Vibrio cholera

Free-living (standing water, flowing water, estuaries)


Vibrio parahaemolyticus

Free living in coastal waters

Diarrhea in shellfish consumers

Yersinia enterocolitica

Frequent in animals and in the environment

Waterborne gastroenteritis




Protozoa = Group 2




Sewage sludge disposal areas

Can cause (brain infection) granulomatous amebic encephalitis; keratitis, corneal ulcers (eye infections-blinding)


Many species of domestic animals and livestock and wild animals

Acute enterocolitis; important in immune compromised individuals; cysts resistant to chemical disinfection; NO ANTIBIOTIC treatment

Cyclospora cayetanensis

Water and possibly animals

Causes long-lasting (43 days) diarrheal illness

Giardia lamblia

Beavers, sheep, dogs, cats, wild canines

Major cause of diarrhea in spring; important in cold mountain water

Naegleria fowleri

Warm water (ex hot tubs), swimming pools, lakes

Inhalation in nasal passages can cause disease; brain and spinal cord infections; meningoencephalitis




    Bacterial Testing: Tests for bacteria that foul and inactivate or damage filtration systems and purification devices and form biofilms inside well, distribution systems, plumbing, storage tanks, water heaters, hot tubs, Jacuzzis, etc. and slough off into your drinking water, produce off tastes, off-odors, or discoloration and increase the risk of becoming ill from drinking or bathing in water. Some "flesh eating" bacteria are thought to be transmitted by exposure to contaminated water. Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus and E. coli are examples of organisms that are suspected or have been proven to cause illness or death in exposed individuals.

a.  Slime Bacteria - clog filtration, pumps and distribution systems. Create an environment that allows growth of more dangerous microorganisms. Inactivate water purification systems, sometimes within hours. Produce off-tasting water.

b.  Iron Related Bacteria - clog filtration, pumps and distribution systems. Create an environment that allows growth of more dangerous microorganisms. Inactivate water purification systems, sometimes within hours. Form unsightly stains on plumbing and fixtures. Acidify the water.

c.  Sulfur Reducing Bacteria - clog filtration and distribution systems. Create an environment that allows growth of more dangerous microorganisms. Inactivate water purification systems, sometimes within hours. Form unsightly stains on plumbing and fixtures and produce foul smells. Acidify the water. Can make water toxic to pets and people.

d.  Heterotrophic Aerobic Bacteria - turbidity, taste, odor, corrosion, health and hygiene risks

e.  Micro-Algae - can indicate the presence of pollution due to excessive nutrients entering the water. Some produce toxic, skin and mucous membrane irritating compounds etc. Clog pumping and filtration equipment.

f.  Fluorescent Pseudomonad's - can cause turbidity, slime formation, taste and odor (fishy or kerosene-like), corrosion, biodegradation, hygiene risks, skin infections, eye infections, urinary tract and genital infections, skin rashes, throat infections / sore throats; upper respiratory tract infections

g.  Nitrifying Bacteria - convert organic and ammonium compounds to nitrate. Nitrite (which is made from this nitrate) is a known carcinogen. Their presence may indicate contamination by sewage, septic tank, industrial waste undergoing aerobic degradation

h.  Denitrifying Bacteria - may indicate pollution with septic, sewage, industrial waste via anaerobic processes. If positive it should be followed by coliform testing (and fecal coliform testing).

i.   Pool, Spa, and Hot Tub Bacteria - cause skin disease, ear infections (swimmers ear), eye infections, folliculitis, and identifies Pseudomonas aeruginosa -. Also, it is known that E. coli, and it is now believed that some of the organisms that cause "necrotizing fasciitis" (flesh eating; Ex. MRSA) may be transmitted by exposure to contaminated water.  These are also excellent reservoirs for Cryptosporidium or Giardia.

Call and request a quote -


We are beginning an experimental test procedure for Giardia and Cryptosporidium in an effort to try to reduce cost to our customers and make previously unaffordable testing available to the public. It is a presence / absence test. This test will cost $85.00 and will test drinking water / tap water and extremely low turbidity surface water only. The test may be used to test product water from distillation and reverse osmosis systems as well. It will test simultaneously for Coliforms, Fecal coliforms (E. coli), Giardia, and Cryptosporidium using well established technologies and procedures. This testing MUST include all 4 organisms and requires approximately 500 milliliters of water.

j.  Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Coliforms, Fecal Coliforms (E. coli)  -- $85.00

Call for more information -1-706-219-3349



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Last modified by Dr. Eberhard Essich 03/22/17