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Epidemiol Infect. Apr 2001; 126(2): 231–239.
PMCID: PMC2869688

Different growth rates in amoeba of genotypically related environmental and clinical Legionella pneumophila strains isolated from a thermal spa.


Two cases of legionellosis occurring 3 years apart were acquired in the same French thermal spa and were apparently due to the same strain of Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1, as shown by genomic macrorestriction analysis. Minor differences between the two isolates were found by random amplification PCR profiling which showed an additional band with one of the isolates. Analysis of 107 L. pneumophila strains isolated from the spa waters by genome macrorestriction failed to identify the infective strain, but a closely related L. pneumophila serogroup 3 strain differing from the clinical isolates by only one band was found. To determine if the clinical L. pneumophila serogroup 1 isolates was better adapted for intracellular multiplication than related serogroup 3 environmental isolates, the growth kinetics of six isolates were determined in co-culture with Acanthamoeba lenticulata. One clinical isolate failed to grow within amoeba, while the other clinical isolate yielded the highest increase in bacterial cell count per amoeba (1,200%) and the environmental isolates gave intermediate values. Genetic analysis of L. pneumophila isolates by DNA macrorestriction does not therefore appear to reflect their growth kinetics within amoeba, and is not sufficiently discriminatory to identify potentially virulent strains.

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