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J Clin Microbiol. Nov 1997; 35(11): 2841–2845.
PMCID: PMC230072

Antigenic lipopolysaccharide components of Legionella pneumophila recognized by monoclonal antibodies: possibilities and limitations for division of the species into serogroups.


Legionella pneumophila accounts for the majority of cases of Legionnaires' disease. By using rabbit antisera, the species has been divided into 14 numbered and 1 unnumbered serogroups. To recognize the antigenic diversity of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) responsible for this classification, the Dresden Legionella LPS MAb panel, containing 98 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), was created. Each serogroup reference strain possesses at least one specific epitope not found on any other reference strain and therefore designated the serogroup-specific epitope. When the appropriate MAbs were used for serotyping of 1,064 human and environmental isolates, 1,045 (98%) could be placed into the known serogroups. In most cases (97%), this was in agreement with the polyclonal typing. Of the 29 isolates that showed strong cross-reactivities with the rabbit antiserum panel, 11 could be typed easily by MAbs; for the remaining 18, however, only serogroup-cross-reactive epitopes could be determined. Below the serogroup level, monoclonal subtypes were found for 11 serogroups. Altogether, the Dresden Legionella LPS MAb panel was able to divide the 1,064 isolates tested into 64 phenons, indicating its usefulness for both serogrouping and subgrouping of L. pneumophila strains. In order to compare the identities of patient and environmental isolates, testing their reactivity with MAbs should be the first step, especially if large numbers of colonies are to be typed. Only in cases of identical patterns are the more time consuming and expensive genetic fingerprints necessary. Moreover, the MAbs can also be used for specific antigen detection in respiratory specimens on the serogroup or subgroup level.

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Selected References

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