The Genus Legionella

Authored by: Alexander W. Ensminger , Eva M. Campodonico , Craig R. Roy

Practical Handbook of Microbiology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9781466587397
eBook ISBN: 9781466587403
Adobe ISBN:


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Members of the genus Legionella are gram-negative aerobic bacilli that belong to the gamma subgroup of proteobacteria. Legionella are facultative intracellular bacteria that are ubiquitous in freshwater ponds and streams where they colonize phagocytic protozoa. The relevance of these organisms to human health was first recognized following the eponymous 1976 outbreak at a meeting of the American Legion in Philadelphia. During the weeks following the convention, 221 attendees fell ill with unexplained, pneumonia-like symptoms; 34 of these patients later died (Garrett, 1994). Legionnaires’ disease was ultimately linked to infection by a bacterium that was named Legionella pneumophila. An examination of the air-conditioning system at the convention site revealed high levels of L. pneumophila-laden protozoa, indicating that exposure to these bacteria via inhalation of contaminated aerosols could result in severe respiratory disease.

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