Impact of lockdown on the microbiological status of the hospital water network during COVID-19 pandemic

Osvalda De Giglio, Giusy Diella, Marco Lopuzzo, Francesco Triggiano, Carla Calia, Chrysovalentinos Pousis, Fabrizio Fasano, Giuseppina Caggiano, Giuseppe Calabrese, Vincenza Rafaschieri, Federica Carpagnano, Matilde Carlucci, Loreto Gesualdo, Maria Luisa Ricci, Maria Scaturro, Maria Cristina Rota, Lucia Bonadonna, Luca Lucentini, Maria Teresa Montagna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic started in China in early December 2019, and quickly spread around the world. The epidemic gradually started in Italy at the end of February 2020, and by May 31, 2020, 232,664 cases and 33,340 deaths were confirmed. As a result of this pandemic, the Italian Ministerial Decree issued on March 11, 2020, enforced lockdown; therefore, many social, recreational, and cultural centers remained closed for months. In Apulia (southern Italy), all non-urgent hospital activities were suspended, and some wards were closed, with a consequent reduction in the use of the water network and the formation of stagnant water. This situation could enhance the risk of exposure of people to waterborne diseases, including legionellosis. The purpose of this study was to monitor the microbiological quality of the water network (coliforms, E. coli, Enterococci, P. aeruginosa, and Legionella) in three wards (A, B and C) of a large COVID-19 regional hospital, closed for three months due to the COVID-19 emergency. Our study revealed that all three wards' water network showed higher contamination by Legionella pneumophila sg 1 and sg 6 at T1 (after lockdown) compared to the period before the lockdown (T0). In particular, ward A at T1 showed a median value = 5600 CFU/L (range 0–91,000 CFU/L) vs T0, median value = 75 CFU/L (range 0–5000 CFU/L) (p-value = 0.014); ward B at T1 showed a median value = 200 CFU/L (range 0–4200 CFU/L) vs T0, median value = 0 CFU/L (range 0–300 CFU/L) (p-value = 0.016) and ward C at T1 showed a median value = 175 CFU/L (range 0–22,000 CFU/L) vs T0, median value = 0 CFU/L (range 0–340 CFU/L) (p-value < 0.001). In addition, a statistically significant difference was detected in ward B between the number of positive water samples at T0 vs T1 for L. pneumophila sg 1 and sg 6 (24% vs 80% p-value < 0.001) and for coliforms (0% vs 64% p-value < 0.001). Moreover, a median value of coliform load resulted 3 CFU/100 ml (range 0–14 CFU/100 ml) at T1, showing a statistically significant increase versus T0 (0 CFU/100 ml) (p-value < 0.001). Our results highlight the need to implement a water safety plan that includes staff training and a more rigorous environmental microbiological surveillance in all hospitals before occupying a closed ward for a longer than one week, according to national and international guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110231
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Hospital
  • Legionella
  • Water networks
  • Waterborne diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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