Education Materials

Mount Sinai Hospital is a University of Toronto patient care, teaching, and research centre.
Mount Sinai Hospital is a University of Toronto patient care, teaching, and research centre.

Ontario Well Water Study

» Study objectives

1. To find out whether well water is a potential source of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

  • Bacteria are a natural part of life and many water sources, including wells, are contaminated with bacteria. Some types of bacteria can cause serious illness.
  • The study investigators will compare the environment surrounding wells contaminated with bacteria that are antibiotic resistant to wells that are not contaminated to find out what factors may lead to contamination of wells with antibiotic resistant bacteria.

2. To find out whether people using well water contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria are more likely to carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their intestinal tract (gut).

  • Most strains of bacteria found in the human gut cause no harm and are found in nearly all healthy people. Once acquired, people may carry these bacteria in their gut for a long time. However, these bacteria are among the most common causes of infections in humans and they may carry genes linked with antibiotic resistance.
  • The study investigators will compare the people using water from both contaminated and uncontaminated wells to find out what factors may lead to the people having antibiotic resistant bacteria in their gut.

For more information please read:


» How the study works

This study will collect information from people in 900 households who:

  • Live in counties served by the London, Hamilton, Ottawa, Kingston, Peterborough, Orillia, or Toronto Public Health Laboratories
  • Use private well water for drinking, cooking, and/or washing
  • Have sent a water sample for bacteriological testing between April 1, 2005 and September 30, 2006
    • The researchers need to talk to some people with water that tested positive for E. coli and some people whose water tested negative.
    • Only a small fraction of people, who will be selected at random, will be phoned.
  • 12 years and older
  • Speak English

» Benefits in participating in study

Although there is not any known benefit for any individual participating in the study, the results of this investigation may help find out what factors are linked with contamination of private wells with antibiotic-resistant bacteria so it may be prevented in future. This study may also help determine what things are linked with humans carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their gut so they can be avoided.

» Risks in participating in study

Although it is highly unlikely, there is a small risk of rectal perforation while performing the rectal swab.

» What you will be asked to do if you agree to participate

The study consists of two separate parts.

  • The first is a visit to your home to interview you about your property, household, and well. The interviewer will also tour your property to note the location of your well, septic system, open water, pastures, and farm buildings. This should take about one hour.
  • The second part is a personal interview about your health and, to find out which bacteria live in your gut, we will ask you to give us a rectal swab. A rectal swab one of the only ways of finding out which bacteria live in a person’s gut. Each interview should take about 20 minutes.

» Participation

Participation in this study is completely voluntary.

  • People contacted may refuse to participate. They are free to withdraw from the study at any time during the study. They may refuse to answer any question or to complete any interview, even if they have already started it.

» Confidentiality

  • All personal information will be kept confidential and only grouped data will be published or released to the public.
  • Personal information, such as names, will be replaced by a number on all surveys and specimens to protect privacy.
  • The study has been approved by an Ethics Review Board.

» Investigators

» Collaborators

  • Dr. Frances Jamieson, Laboratory Services Branch, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Dr. Rebecca Irwin, Health Canada
  • Bruce Ciebin, Ontario Public Health Laboratories
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