Helicobacter pylori infection is a risk factor for chronic active gastritis, peptic ulcers, gastric carcinoma and lymphoma. Although the infection may be acquired through different transmission routes, the presence and viability of H. pylori in water sources are not well known. Therefore, the aim of our study was to analyse the viability of H. pylori cells in urban surface waters collected at the Vallparadís public park in Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain. The water samples were analysed by viability quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) using propidium monoazide and specific primers for the H. pylori vacuolating cytotoxin (vacA gene). Viable H. pylori were found in 91.3% of the samples analysed, with an average concentration of 3.46 ± 1.06 log cell 100 mL−1. Our work proves a quick and simple procedure for evaluating viable H. pylori cells in environmental samples by qPCR. Furthermore, the results provide evidence that urban surface waters may contain considerable levels of viable H. pylori cells, thus indicating they are a potential source of infection, which represents a public health concern.

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