What are Microbiological Agents?

Microbiological agents range from single cell organisms to small living things such as Bacteria, Total Coliform Bacteria, Parasites, Protozoans, Fungi, Molds, and Viruses.  In many cases, there is virtually no warning sign of a microbiological problem until someone becomes ill or sick. This is why proactive monitoring and regular screening is strongly suggested. In most cases, these contaminants are regulated under the Primary Drinking Water Standards and they should be "absent" or "not present" in the water.

What Are the Categories of Microbiological Agents?

Common Microbiological Agents can be divided into three categories, Bacteria, Waterborne Pathogens, and Protozoans.

Bacterial contaminants include Bacteria, Total Coliform Bacteria, Nuisance Bacteria, Pink Bacteria, Iron Bacteria, Slime Bacteria, Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria, and Fecal Streptococcus.

Waterborne Pathogens include E. Coli, Legionella, Shigella, E. Coli 0157:H7 (note that most E.Coli in the gut are not disease-causing; this particular variety is), Fecal Coliform, Campylobacter, and Salmonella. A recent development that has improved the ability to determine the presence of waterborne pathogens is the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and qPCR.

Protozoans include contaminants such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Blastocystis hominis which can be disease-causing.

How do Microbiological Agents impact health?

They are categorized as a primary contaminant because they can directly impact your health, but, in some cases, they may also be associated with aesthetic problems. They can be characterized as pathogenic or disease-causing or can serve as vectors that facilitate the spread of disease or other disorders, such as Autoimmune diseases. Common disease-causing agents include Total Coliform Bacteria, E. coli, Waterborne Pathogens, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Legionella, Shigella, E. Coli 0157:H7, Campylobacter, and Salmonella. There are about “7.2 million annual cases of illness in the United States due to waterborne pathogens, according to a new CDC estimate. They lead to nearly 120,000 hospitalizations and more than 6600 deaths every year.” Source: Science, 370, 1382 (18 Dec 2020).

Other microorganisms, such as: Nuisance Bacteria, Pink Bacteria, Iron Bacteria, Slime Bacteria, Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria, and standard plate count (heterotrophic bacteria) are typically associated with nuisance or aesthetic related issues, but they can also be associated with Corrosion and the premature failure of water-related infrastructure and equipment and elevated levels of corrosion by-products, such as: Copper, Chromium, Lead, Zinc, and other metals.

The following are common Microbiological Agents found in drinking water for both city water and private water systems:

Additional Resources

Get Informed

No items found.

Get Tested

Level 1
Level 2
No items found.
Level 3
No items found.
Level 4

Get Treatment

Short Term
No items found.
No items found.

Get Tools

Get Training