A rapid whole blood culture (WBC) assay system was developed to monitor the inflammatory potential of water samples collected in the Manguang Municipal area, South Africa. Several systems associated with the Modder River catchment area were investigated in this preliminary study to find out whether there were potential problems in this catchment area. Three focus areas were investigated: (a) the impact of the Klein Modder River, which passes through a densely populated residential area, on the inflammatory activity of the Modder River; (b) the efficiency of the treatment plants in eliminating inflammatory activity; and (c) the efficiency of chlorination of treated water in eliminating inflammatory activity that was not eliminated by the treatment system. Water contaminated with inflammatory substances induced the pro-inflammatory hormone interleukin 6 (IL-6). All water samples collected from the Modder River induced IL-6 secretion, and the quantity of IL-6 secreted was dependent on the concentration and origin of the sample. The lowest IL-6 inducing activity for river water was obtained for samples collected near the origin of the river (Rustfontein). Samples at subsequent points downstream from confluence with the Klein Modder River showed a major increase in IL-6 inducing activity. The two treatment plants along the Modder River also received water of different inflammatory activity. Both treatment plants eliminated some of the inflammatory activity during processing, however inflammatory residues remained after processing which might have been potentially harmful for infants and people with suppressed immune systems. Chlorination eliminated most of the inflammatory activity, indicating that chlorination of water was a necessary process in ensuring water of low inflammatory content.

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