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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 Oct;77(19):6899-907. doi: 10.1128/AEM.05556-11. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

High-throughput typing method to identify a non-outbreak-involved Legionella pneumophila strain colonizing the entire water supply system in the town of Rennes, France.

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  • 1Université Paris-Sud, Institut de Génétique et Microbiologie, 91405 Orsay, France.


Two legionellosis outbreaks occurred in the city of Rennes, France, during the past decade, requiring in-depth monitoring of Legionella pneumophila in the water network and the cooling towers in the city. In order to characterize the resulting large collection of isolates, an automated low-cost typing method was developed. The multiplex capillary-based variable-number tandem repeat (VNTR) (multiple-locus VNTR analysis [MLVA]) assay requiring only one PCR amplification per isolate ensures a high level of discrimination and reduces hands-on and time requirements. In less than 2 days and using one 4-capillary apparatus, 217 environmental isolates collected between 2000 and 2009 and 5 clinical isolates obtained during outbreaks in 2000 and 2006 in Rennes were analyzed, and 15 different genotypes were identified. A large cluster of isolates with closely related genotypes and representing 77% of the population was composed exclusively of environmental isolates extracted from hot water supply systems. It was not responsible for the known Rennes epidemic cases, although strains showing a similar MLVA profile have regularly been involved in European outbreaks. The clinical isolates in Rennes had the same genotype as isolates contaminating a mall's cooling tower. This study further demonstrates that unknown environmental or genetic factors contribute to the pathogenicity of some strains. This work illustrates the potential of the high-throughput MLVA typing method to investigate the origin of legionellosis cases by allowing the systematic typing of any new isolate and inclusion of data in shared databases.

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