Showering in microbes:  INvestigating Home water and Aerosols’ Links

to opportunistic pathogen Exposure (INHALE)


Respiratory tract infections resulting from bacterial opportunistic pathogens, such as Legionella pneumophila, nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, are a leading cause of infectious disease morbidity and mortality in the US. OPs typically pose no risk to healthy individuals but can cause infections in susceptible individuals, including those with pre-existing pulmonary conditions and the immunocompromised (e.g., the very young, old, or people with AIDS or cancer). While the major route of respiratory OP exposure is hypothesized to be from the inhalation of water aerosols (e.g., from showering), few studies have measured OP abundance in aerosols or have explored the efficacy of different mitigation strategies (e.g., modified showerheads and chemical cleaning agents) deployed by the public and healthcare facilities to reduce OP exposure from showering. Using a custom-built laboratory shower rig, this study will assess the influence that different shower head types and shower head cleaning regimes have on the abundance of OPs in water and aerosols generated from showering.

The overall aims of the study are to:

  1. To quantify and characterize the OPs transferred between home shower water and shower water associated aerosols. 

  2. To determine the impact that different showerhead types have on water chemistry and OP abundance.

This work is supported by:

  1. A University of Pittsburgh Central Research Development Fund