Bacterial characterization of toilet bowl biofilms


Methods have been developed and applied for sampling, characterizing and quantifying naturally occurring toilet bowl biofilms. Ceramic porcelain disks mounted in neoprene rubber strips were sealed in place in toilet bowls in three residences in Bozeman, Montana. In each bowl, duplicate strips were placed above, at and below the water level. In 7 consecutive weeks, duplicate disks from each zone in each bowl were removed. Surface biofouling was measured by viable cell areal density. Specific fouling rates were calculated and variability among toilet bowls and water levels was assessed. Specific fouling rates ranged from 0.0 to 0.46d‐1. Average areal cell densities at the end of 7 weeks ranged from 103 to 107cfu cm‐2. The extent of fouling was highest below the water line. Neutralization of the chlorine residual (typically 0.9 mg l‐1) in one toilet did not increase the extent of fouling compared to the controls. Biofilm areal viable cell densities and bowl water viable counts were positively correlated (r = 0.78). The visual threshold for detection of toilet bowl biofilm by the naked eye was approximately 105 cfu cm‐2. In a heavily fouled toilet bowl, the biofilm was up to 20 μm thick. Microorganisms were isolated from the biofilm and identified. Of the 32 organisms that were further characterized, 10 were identified as Pseudomonas, Sphingomonas or Chryseomonas species.




Pitts, B., P.S. Stewart, G.A. McFeters, M.A. Hamilton, A. Willse, and N. Zelver, “Bacterial Characterization of Toilet Bowl Biofilms,” Biofouling, 13(1):19-30 (1998).
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