Tag Archives: Legionella

Legionella in Warm Water Systems, Germany

Dilger T, Melzl H, Gessner A. Legionella contamination in warm water systems: A species-level survey. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2017 Nov 3. pii: S1438-4639(17)30535-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.10.011.

Legionellae constitute a frequent contamination of warm water systems and can lead to serious infections. Therefore, in many countries it is mandatory to monitor warm water systems for their presence. The method of examination in Germany is regulated by guideline ISO 11731 and DIN EN ISO 11731-2, and the results are reported as concentration of Legionella spp. Only limited information is available on the presence of individual species of Legionellae in the examined systems, since most investigations and research focus solely on Legionella pneumophila as the most important human pathogen. In this study 76,220 samples obtained from 13,397 warm water systems originating from 24 different zip code districts covering an area of more than 71,000km2 in southern Germany were examined. This resulted in the identification of 47,924 Legionella isolates to the species level using a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry-based method. Legionella species distribution was analyzed with respect to warm water system type, geographic region (defined as zip code district) and temperature during sample taking. Overall, 20.7% of the samples were found positive for Legionella species and 14 different species of Legionella were recovered. These were not equally present throughout the geographic area investigated, but instead an individual regional diversity of Legionella species was observed for the examined zip code districts. Although Legionella pneumophila represented 84% of all contaminations found, depending on the geographical region its proportion varied substantially between 57.5% and 91.2%. The occurrence of other species was also of importance since they accounted for up to 42% of contaminations regionally, with Legionella londiniensis being most prominent representing up to 38.8% of recovered colonies. In addition, the influence of temperature on the individual species was disparate, but the temperature range between 50°C and 59°C was identified as the optimal condition for facilitating emergence of the majority of recovered Legionella species. The identification of Legionella to the species level by MALDI-TOF allowed for a more concise depiction of the regional distribution and the ecology of this genus, and may be of additional value when counter measures need to be initiated.

Roof-Harvested Rain Water Poses Risks for Legionella and Mycobacterium

Hamilton KA, Ahmed W, Toze S, Haas CN. Human health risks for Legionella and Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) from potable and non-potable uses of roof-harvested rainwater. Water research. 2017 Apr 5;119:288-303. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2017.04.004.

A quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) of opportunistic pathogens Legionella pneumophila (LP) and Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) was undertaken for various uses of roof-harvested rainwater (RHRW) reported in Queensland, Australia to identify appropriate usages and guide risk management practices. Risks from inhalation of aerosols due to showering, swimming in pools topped up with RHRW, use of a garden hose, car washing, and toilet flushing with RHRW were considered for LP while both ingestion (drinking, produce consumption, and accidental ingestion from various activities) and inhalation risks were considered for MAC. The drinking water route of exposure presented the greatest risks due to cervical lymphadenitis and disseminated infection health endpoints for children and immune-compromised populations, respectively. It is therefore not recommended that these populations consume untreated rainwater. LP risks were up to 6 orders of magnitude higher than MAC risks for the inhalation route of exposure for all scenarios. Both inhalation and ingestion QMRA simulations support that while drinking, showering, and garden hosing with RHRW may present the highest risks, car washing and clothes washing could constitute appropriate uses of RHRW for all populations, and toilet flushing and consumption of lettuce irrigation with RHRW would be appropriate for non- immune-compromised populations.

Lead, Legionella in US Drinking Water Supplies

Rosen MB, Pokhrel LR, Weir MH. A discussion about public health, lead and Legionella pneumophila in drinking water supplies in the United States. The Science of the total environment. 2017 Jul 15;590-591:843-852. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.02.164.

Lead (Pb) in public drinking water supplies has garnered much attention since the outset of the Flint water crisis. Pb is a known hazard in multiple environmental matrices, exposure from which results in long-term deleterious health effects in humans. This discussion paper aims to provide a succinct account of environmental Pb exposures with a focus on water Pb levels (WLLs) in the United States. It is understood that there is a strong correlation between WLLs and blood Pb levels (BLLs), and the associated health effects. However, within the Flint water crisis, more than water chemistry and Pb exposure occurred. A cascade of regulatory and bureaucratic failures culminated in the Flint water crisis. This paper will discuss pertinent regulations and responses including their limitations after an overview of the public health effects from Pb exposure as well as discussion on our limitations on monitoring and mitigating Pb in tap water. As the Flint water crisis also included increased Legionnares’ disease, caused by Legionella pneumophila, this paper will discuss factors influencing L. pneumophila growth. This will highlight the systemic nature of changes to water chemistry and public health impacts. As we critically analyze these important aspects of water research, we offer discussions to stimulate future water quality research from a new and systemic perspective to inform and guide public health decision-making.

Point of Use Filters for Waterborne Pathogen Removal

Totaro M, Valentini P, Casini B, Miccoli M, Costa AL, Baggiani A. Experimental comparison of point-of-use filters for drinking water ultrafiltration. J Hosp Infect. 2016 Dec 1. pii: S0195-6701(16)30543-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2016.11.017.

BACKGROUND: Waterborne pathogens such as Pseudomonas spp. and Legionella spp. may persist in hospital water networks despite chemical disinfection. Point-of-use filtration represents a physical control measure that can be applied in high-risk areas to contain the exposure to such pathogens. New technologies have enabled an extension of filters’ lifetimes and have made available faucet hollow-fibre filters for water ultrafiltration.

AIM: To compare point-of-use filters applied to cold water within their period of validity.

METHODS: Faucet hollow-fibre filters (filter A), shower hollow-fibre filters (filter B) and faucet membrane filters (filter C) were contaminated in two different sets of tests with standard bacterial strains (Pseudomonas aeruginosa DSM 939 and Brevundimonas diminuta ATCC 19146) and installed at points-of-use. Every day, from each faucet, 100 L of water was flushed. Before and after flushing, 250 mL of water was collected and analysed for microbiology.

FINDINGS: There was a high capacity of microbial retention from filter C; filter B released only low Brevundimonas spp. counts; filter A showed poor retention of both micro-organisms.

CONCLUSION: Hollow-fibre filters did not show good micro-organism retention. All point-of-use filters require an appropriate maintenance of structural parameters to ensure their efficiency.

Legionella spp. in greywater

Rodríguez-Martínez S, Blanky M, Friedler E, Halpern M. Legionella spp. isolation and quantification from greywater. MethodsX. 2015 Nov 10;2:458-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mex.2015.11.004. eCollection 2015.

Legionella, an opportunistic human pathogen whose natural environment is water, is transmitted to humans through inhalation of contaminated aerosols. Legionella has been isolated from a high diversity of water types. Due its importance as a pathogen, two ISO protocols have been developed for its monitoring. However, these two protocols are not suitable for analyzing Legionella in greywater (GW). GW is domestic wastewater excluding the inputs from toilets and kitchen. It can serve as an alternative water source, mainly for toilet flushing and garden irrigation; both producing aerosols that can cause a risk for Legionella infection. Hence, before reuse, GW has to be treated and its quality needs to be monitored. The difficulty of Legionella isolation from GW strives in the very high load of contaminant bacteria. Here we describe a modification of the ISO protocol 11731:1998 that enables the isolation and quantification of Legionella from GW samples.

The following modifications were made:   •To enable isolation of Legionella from greywater, a pre-filtration step that removes coarse matter is recommended.  •Legionella can be isolated after a combined acid-thermic treatment that eliminates the high load of contaminant bacteria in the sample.

Identifying Legionella Contamination, Germany

Völker S, Schreiber C, Müller H, Zacharias N, Kistemann T. [Identification of Systemic Contaminations with Legionella Spec. in Drinking Water Plumbing Systems: Sampling Strategies and Corresponding Parameters]. Gesundheitswesen (Bundesverband der Arzte des Offentlichen Gesundheitsdienstes (Germany)). 2015 Nov 30. [Article in German]

After the amendment of the Drinking Water Ordinance in 2011, the requirements for the hygienic-microbiological monitoring of drinking water installations have increased significantly. In the BMBF-funded project “Biofilm Management” (2010-2014), we examined the extent to which established sampling strategies in practice can uncover drinking water plumbing systems systemically colonized with Legionella. Moreover, we investigated additional parameters that might be suitable for detecting systemic contaminations. We subjected the drinking water plumbing systems of 8 buildings with known microbial contamination (Legionella) to an intensive hygienic-microbiological sampling with high spatial and temporal resolution. A total of 626 drinking hot water samples were analyzed with classical culture-based methods. In addition, comprehensive hygienic observations were conducted in each building and qualitative interviews with operators and users were applied. Collected tap-specific parameters were quantitatively analyzed by means of sensitivity and accuracy calculations. The systemic presence of Legionella in drinking water plumbing systems has a high spatial and temporal variability. Established sampling strategies were only partially suitable to detect long-term Legionella contaminations in practice. In particular, the sampling of hot water at the calorifier and circulation re-entrance showed little significance in terms of contamination events. To detect the systemic presence of Legionella,the parameters stagnation (qualitatively assessed) and temperature (compliance with the 5K-rule) showed better results.

Influence of Water Heater Temperature on Legionella at the Tap

Rhoads WJ, Ji P, Pruden A, Edwards MA. Water heater temperature set point and water use patterns influence Legionella pneumophila and associated microorganisms at the tap. Microbiome 2015 Dec 1;3(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s40168-015-0134-1.

BACKGROUND: Lowering water heater temperature set points and using less drinking water are common approaches to conserving water and energy; yet, there are discrepancies in past literature regarding the effects of water heater temperature and water use patterns on the occurrence of opportunistic pathogens, in particular Legionella pneumophila. Our objective was to conduct a controlled, replicated pilot-scale investigation to address this knowledge gap using continuously recirculating water heaters to examine five water heater set points (39-58 °C) under three water use conditions. We hypothesized that L. pneumophila levels at the tap depend on the collective influence of water heater temperature, flow frequency, and the resident plumbing ecology.

RESULTS: We confirmed temperature setting to be a critical factor in suppressing L. pneumophila growth both in continuously recirculating hot water lines and at distal taps. For example, at 51 °C, planktonic L. pneumophila in recirculating lines was reduced by a factor of 28.7 compared to 39 °C and was prevented from re-colonizing biofilm. However, L. pneumophila still persisted up to 58 °C, with evidence that it was growing under the conditions of this study. Further, exposure to 51 °C water in a low-use tap appeared to optimally select for L. pneumophila (e.g., 125 times greater numbers than in high-use taps). We subsequently explored relationships among L. pneumophila and other ecologically relevant microbes, noting that elevated temperature did not have a general disinfecting effect in terms of total bacterial numbers. We documented the relationship between L. pneumophila and Legionella spp., and noted several instances of correlations with Vermamoeba vermiformis, and generally found that there is a dynamic relationship with this amoeba host over the range of temperatures and water use frequencies examined.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides a new window of understanding into the microbial ecology of potable hot water systems and helps to resolve past discrepancies in the literature regarding the influence of water temperature and stagnation on L. pneumophila, which is the cause of a growing number of outbreaks. This work is especially timely, given society’s movement towards “green” buildings and the need to reconcile innovations in building design with public health.