Occurrence and diversity of both bacterial and fungal communities in dental unit waterlines subjected to disinfectants

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Chemical disinfectants are widely advocated to reduce the microbial contamination in dental unit waterlines (DUWL). However, until now their efficacy has been poorly examined after long-term application. In this study, through quantitative PCR and high-throughput sequencing, both bacterial and fungal communities were profiled from 8- to 12-year-old DUWL treated with disinfectants commonly used by European dentists. Water was collected from the tap water supplying units to the output exposure point of the turbine handpiece following a stagnation period and dental care activity. Results showed that (i) the unit itself is the principal source of microbial contamination and (ii) water stagnation, DU maintenance practices and quality of water supplying DU appeared as parameters driving the water quality. Despite disinfecting treatment combined to flushing process, the microbial contamination remained relevant in the studied output water, in association with a high bacterial and fungal diversity. The occurrence of potentially pathogenic microorganisms in these treated DUWL demonstrated a potential infectious risk for both patients and dental staff. A disinfectant shock before a prolonged stagnation period could limit the microbial proliferation inside DUWL. Necessity to proceed to regular water quality control of DUWL was highlighted.

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