Waterborne infectious disease outbreak associated with well water contamination is a worldwide public health issue, especially for rural areas in developing countries. In the current study, we characterized 20 well water samples collected from a rural area of southern Changchun city, China, and investigated the survival potential of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in those water samples. The results showed that nitrate and ammonia concentrations in some well water samples exceed the corresponding China drinking water standards, indicating potential contamination by local agricultural farms. Our results also revealed that the average survival time (ttd) of E. coli O157:H7 in all well water samples was 30.09 days, with shortest and longest ttd being 17.95 and 58.10 days, respectively. The ttds were significantly correlated with pH and the ratio of total nitrogen to total phosphorus. In addition, it was found that the shape parameter (p) and first decimal reduction parameter (δ) were negatively (P < 0.05) and positively (P < 0.05) correlated to ttd, respectively. Our study showed that E. coli O157:H7 could survive up to two months in well water, suggesting that this pathogen could constitute a great public health risk.

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