Widespread Molecular Detection of Legionella pneumophila Serogroup 1 in Cold Water Taps across the United States


In the United States, 6,868 cases of legionellosis were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009–2010. Of these reports, it is estimated that 84% are caused by the microorganism Legionella pneumophila Serogroup (Sg) 1. Legionella spp. have been isolated and recovered from a variety of natural freshwater environments. Human exposure to L. pneumophila Sg1 may occur from aerosolization and subsequent inhalation of household and facility water. In this study, two primer/probe sets (one able to detect L. pneumophila and the other L. pneumophila Sg1) were determined to be highly sensitive and selective for their respective targets. Over 272 water samples, collected in 2009 and 2010 from 68 public and private water taps across the United States, were analyzed using the two qPCR assays to evaluate the incidence of L. pneumophila Sg1. Nearly half of the taps showed the presence of L. pneumophila Sg1 in one sampling event, and 16% of taps were positive in more than one sampling event. This study is the first United States survey to document the occurrence and colonization of L. pneumophila Sg1 in cold water delivered from point of use taps.

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