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[Pathogenesis, diagnosis and therapy of Legionella infections].

[Article in German]

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Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Nationales Konsiliarlabor für Legionellen, TU-Dresden, Fiedlerstrasse 42, 01307 Dresden.


Legionella species are ubiquitous in aquatic environments. About 50 years ago they entered the engineered (technical) environment, i.e. warm water systems with zones of stagnation. Since that time they represent a hygienic problem. After transmission to humans via aerosols legionellae might cause Legionella pneumonia (legionnaires' disease) or influenza-like respiratory infections (Pontiac fever). Epidemiological data suggest that Legionella strains might differ substantially in their virulence properties. Although the molecular basis is not understood L. pneumophila serogroup 1 especially MAb 3/1-positive strains cause the majority of infections. The main virulence feature is the ability to multiply intracellularly. After uptake into macrophages legionellae multiply in a specialized vacuole and finally lyse their host cells. Several bacterial factors like surface components, secretion systems and iron uptake systems are involved in this process. Since the clinical picture of Legionella pneumonia does not allow differentiation from pneumoniae caused by other pathogens, microbiological diagnostic methods are needed to establish the diagnosis. Cultivation of legionellae from clinical specimens, detection of antigens and DNA in patients' samples and detection of antibodies in serum samples are suitable methods. However, none of the diagnostic tests presently available offers the desired quality with respect to sensitivity and specificity. Therefore, the standard technique is to use several diagnostic tests in parallel. Advantages and disadvantages of the diagnostic procedures are discussed. Therapeutic options for Legionella infections are newer macrolides like azithromycin and chinolones (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin and moxifloxacin).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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