Spiritual cleansing has got dirty, according to reports.
Rather than containing healing properties, most water from "holy" springs in Austria is apparently so contaminated with faecal matter and nitrates that it is unsafe for drinking, a microbiology report has warned.
The water used in fonts in churches and hospital chapels also shockingly contains 62 million bacteria for every millilitre of holy water, a study by the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the MedUni Vienna has claimed.
Microbiologists analysed the water quality in a total of 21 "holy" springs, as well as 18 fonts in churches and hospital chapels in Vienna at various times of the year, it was revealed in the study.
Stomach-churningly, only 14% met the microbiological and chemical requirements of national drinking water regulations – possibly as a result of poor toilet hygiene, Medical Express said.
The springs contained not only faecal contamination with E. coli bacteria and enterococci, but also Campylobacter, which can cause inflammatory diarrhoea, experts claimed.
"We need to warn people against drinking from these sources," microbiologist Alexander Kirschner said in the report.
In the study, he recommends that the appropriate authorities and priests put up warning signs and display the history of the holy springs.
"Holy water in churches and chapels may cause infections via wetting of lips and sprinkling on persons," he warned.
The report is not the first time the healing properties of holy springs have appeared to no longer hold true.
In 2011 it was discovered holy drinking water contaminated with arsenic was being sold illegally to Muslims by UK shops.
Additionally, in 2010, more than 100 Russian Orthodox believers were hospitalised after drinking toxic holy water during Epiphany celebrations.
A total of 117 people, including 48 children, were in the hospital suffering from acute intestinal pain after drinking water from wells in and around a local church in the eastern city of Irkutsk.