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The systems that deliver our water could deliver lethal pathogens instead. The risk is real, but it doesn’t have to be.

Most people take it for granted that the water they use to wash the dog, soak the dishes and even swim in is pretty safe. Unless some public alarm bell is sounded, we rarely give a second thought to our water day in and day out. However, there is real reason to think about water less casually and more cautiously. Man-made aquatic systems, if not treated properly, become fertile hosts for biofilm communities of microbes, including Legionella pneumophila (also known as Legionnaires’ disease). If these pathogens are aerated, they can be inhaled by humans — and so begins an outbreak.

The prospects are frightening. Which goes a long way in explaining why Clemson microbiologist Tamara McNealy is conducting focused research aimed at preventing and eliminating potential contamination of our water systems and developing treatments for those already affected by contamination.

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11

Number of Clemson seniors and graduate students who won National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships in 2012.

Clemson by the numbers »