A fluorescently labelled peptide nucleic acid (PNA) probe has been applied for the in situ detection of Helicobacter pylori in drinking water biofilms. The method was originally applied to real pipe samples removed from a drinking water distribution system (DWDS) but the curvature and the heavy fouling of the pipes prevented an accurate detection of the bacterium by epifluorescence microscopy. Therefore, two semi-circular flow cells were placed in a bypass of the DWDS, and coupons with up to 72 days of exposure were regularly sampled and analysed for the presence of H. pylori. In the flat surfaces of the coupons, it was possible to sparsely detect cells exhibiting similar morphology to H. pylori that were emitting the PNA probe fluorescent signal. Coupons were also visualised under the microscope before the hybridisation procedure to serve as negative controls and ensure the validity of the method. This work corroborates the findings already published elsewhere that this bacterium might be present in DWDS biofilms. The method requires, however, highly trained personnel for an accurate detection of the pathogen and will need simplification before being routinely used in standard water analysis laboratories.

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