If you have seen the news lately, you may have heard about the recent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in New York city, particularly the South Bronx. Over one hundred people have been affected by the illness and twelve people have died from the disease. While Legionnaire’s disease may sound like something that plagued ancient Rome, but it’s namesake does not reflect how “young” our knowledge of this bacterium is. While an investigation is still underway as to source of the infection, let us take a closer look at this disease that has been making headlines.
The genus Legionella is a pathogenic, gram-negative bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease is an illness caused by Legionella pneumophila causing a type of atpypical pneumonia. While its namesake might sound archaic, it actually acquired its name in July of 1976, when a strange pneumonia ran rampant among people attending an American Legion convention at the Bellevue-Stratford hotel in Philadelphia. There were one hundred and eighty two reported cases and twenty nine deaths. The cause of the outbreak was finally uncovered the following year as a previously unknown bacteria which was subsequently dubbed Legionella.
Transmission of the disease comes from aerosolized water and/or contaminated soil containing the bacterium. It cannot be transmitted person to person, but can on occasion has been known to be transmitted by contaminated water and surgical wounds. The disease thrives at temperatures between twenty five and forty two degrees Centigrade. This means that the bacteria can proliferate in colloing towers, evaporation condensers in air conditioning units, and hot water tanks. Legionella is also incredible tenacious, as they are able to survive within water containing intracellular parasites such as amoebae.
While the illness can be quite deadly, having a mortality rate of anywhere between five to thirty percent, it is not an incredibly contagious disease. Fewer than five percent of people who come in contact with the disease actually contract it. Most who do contract Legionnaires’ disease are over the age of fifty, with preexisting health conditions, are current/former smokers, of have immune systems that have been compromised by immunosuppressive drugs.
To identify this bacteria, Hardy Diagnostics offers the G07 BCYE (Buffered Charcoal Yeast Extract) Agar for Legionella spp. for clinical and environmental specimens.
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Written by Daniel Ballew
Daniel is a Marketing Associate for Hardy Diagnostics. He earned his bachelor’s degree in History and a certificate in World Religions at California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo in San Luis Obispo, California where he studied mythology and the development of Christianity.