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J Hosp Infect. 2008 Jun;69(2):148-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2008.03.004. Epub 2008 Apr 29.

Prevalence of anti-legionella antibodies among Italian hospital workers.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy.


This study evaluated the prevalence of anti-legionella antibodies in workers at hospitals with a long-term history of legionella contamination. The hospitals are located in Milan and Turin, northern Italy, and in Naples and Bari, southern Italy. Antibody prevalence and titres of healthcare workers, medical and dental students and blood donors were assessed. In total 28.5% of subjects were antibody positive, most frequently to L. pneumophila serogroups 7-14. Major differences were observed in seroprevalence and type of legionella antibody in persons from different geographic areas. Healthcare workers had a significantly higher frequency of antibodies compared with blood donors in Milan (35.4 vs 15.9%, P<0.001), whereas in Naples both groups exhibited high antibody frequency (48.8 vs 44.0%) and had a higher proportion of antibodies to legionella serogroups 1-6. Dental workers had a higher seroprevalence than office staff in Bari, but not in Turin, where daily disinfecting procedures had been adopted to avoid contamination of dental unit water. No association was found between the presence of antibodies and the presence of risk factors for legionellosis, nor with the occurrence of pneumonia and/or flu-like symptoms. In conclusion, the presence of legionella antibodies may be associated with occupational exposure in the hospital environment, but there was no evidence of any association with disease.

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