Research Topic

Reducing Drinking Water Microbial Risks: Towards Bridging the Gap between Evidence and Action

About this Research Topic

Despite existence of guidelines and active research for how to manage water-associated and waterborne pathogen health risks in the built-environment, evidence-based policies, standards, and guidelines are still limited by significant knowledge gaps. Addressing these gaps is challenging because the research fields involved in building plumbing and indoor air quality are complex. Furthermore, practitioners that researchers are attempting to support represent many stakeholders that have little to no overlap in their professional qualifications, governing bodies, or knowledge dissemination platforms, including: architects, environmental engineers, mechanical engineers, building managers, and policy makers. While recent expert panels have identified gaps and research needs for the stakeholders they were convened by (e.g., NASEM Management of Legionella in Water Systems), there remains a need for coordinated efforts linking research with policy and practice. A critical gap for addressing this need is making raw data readily available and comparable for meta and data analyses/modeling. A common reporting structure is needed for environmental sampling approaches, methodology applied, models that quantify risk, and evaluations of strategies for reducing risk that can be used to develop decision support models.

Gaps include straight-forward environmental monitoring data needs such as establishing baseline built-environment quality in different settings (e.g., building types, sizes), or developing data sets that may be used to parameterize or train models such as building plumbing water quality or quantitative microbial risk exposure models. Data needs to achieve these goals are extensive and include, but are not limited to: water demand patterns, water quality profiles, levels of microorganisms (including pathogens), dose-response relationships, biofilm-water-air partitioning, and differences in pathogen strain response to treatments. As molecular quantification, “-omics” analysis methods, and building- or municipal-level system operational data become easier to collect and more abundant, we should strive to promote microbiological measurement data to knowledge about the connection between system design and operation and microbial ecology. From that knowledge we can then develop evidence-based guidances for improved management of building water systems and for effective policies and standards.

The goal of this Research Topic is to advance understanding of how to synthesize research that collects, analyzes, and uses data differently. This goal will be accomplished by soliciting articles from many built-environment fields. However, in addition to the scope and objectives of the original submission, authors that submit manuscripts to this effort will contribute their data to a coordinated data repository that standardizes reporting criteria, anonymizes, and archives novel data collected. These data will remain publicly available and serve as a starting point for a data trust of environmental quality in the building environment that can be queried for diverse purposes. This data transparency specifically contributes to the open access mindset of this journal.

Authors are welcomed to submit articles addressing:
- Data needs (identification of or novel data filling gaps),
- Methods comparisons and appropriate application,
- Predictive models for environmental quality or built-environment health risks, and
- Translation of research to policy.

Authors are encouraged to submit original data, but review articles will also be considered if they are topical. Articles submitted will be reviewed by at least one reviewer with expertise in environmental monitoring (e.g., experimentalist), modelling (e.g., QMRA expert), and policy (e.g., epidemiologist).


Keywords: Standardized Reporting, Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment, Environmental Water Quality Modelling, Culture, Molecular Detection, Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR), Digital Droplet PCR (ddPCR), Environmental Sampling, Policy Development, Data Needs


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Despite existence of guidelines and active research for how to manage water-associated and waterborne pathogen health risks in the built-environment, evidence-based policies, standards, and guidelines are still limited by significant knowledge gaps. Addressing these gaps is challenging because the research fields involved in building plumbing and indoor air quality are complex. Furthermore, practitioners that researchers are attempting to support represent many stakeholders that have little to no overlap in their professional qualifications, governing bodies, or knowledge dissemination platforms, including: architects, environmental engineers, mechanical engineers, building managers, and policy makers. While recent expert panels have identified gaps and research needs for the stakeholders they were convened by (e.g., NASEM Management of Legionella in Water Systems), there remains a need for coordinated efforts linking research with policy and practice. A critical gap for addressing this need is making raw data readily available and comparable for meta and data analyses/modeling. A common reporting structure is needed for environmental sampling approaches, methodology applied, models that quantify risk, and evaluations of strategies for reducing risk that can be used to develop decision support models.

Gaps include straight-forward environmental monitoring data needs such as establishing baseline built-environment quality in different settings (e.g., building types, sizes), or developing data sets that may be used to parameterize or train models such as building plumbing water quality or quantitative microbial risk exposure models. Data needs to achieve these goals are extensive and include, but are not limited to: water demand patterns, water quality profiles, levels of microorganisms (including pathogens), dose-response relationships, biofilm-water-air partitioning, and differences in pathogen strain response to treatments. As molecular quantification, “-omics” analysis methods, and building- or municipal-level system operational data become easier to collect and more abundant, we should strive to promote microbiological measurement data to knowledge about the connection between system design and operation and microbial ecology. From that knowledge we can then develop evidence-based guidances for improved management of building water systems and for effective policies and standards.

The goal of this Research Topic is to advance understanding of how to synthesize research that collects, analyzes, and uses data differently. This goal will be accomplished by soliciting articles from many built-environment fields. However, in addition to the scope and objectives of the original submission, authors that submit manuscripts to this effort will contribute their data to a coordinated data repository that standardizes reporting criteria, anonymizes, and archives novel data collected. These data will remain publicly available and serve as a starting point for a data trust of environmental quality in the building environment that can be queried for diverse purposes. This data transparency specifically contributes to the open access mindset of this journal.

Authors are welcomed to submit articles addressing:
- Data needs (identification of or novel data filling gaps),
- Methods comparisons and appropriate application,
- Predictive models for environmental quality or built-environment health risks, and
- Translation of research to policy.

Authors are encouraged to submit original data, but review articles will also be considered if they are topical. Articles submitted will be reviewed by at least one reviewer with expertise in environmental monitoring (e.g., experimentalist), modelling (e.g., QMRA expert), and policy (e.g., epidemiologist).


Keywords: Standardized Reporting, Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment, Environmental Water Quality Modelling, Culture, Molecular Detection, Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR), Digital Droplet PCR (ddPCR), Environmental Sampling, Policy Development, Data Needs


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

04 September 2021 Abstract
02 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

04 September 2021 Abstract
02 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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