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Curr Microbiol. 2008 Nov;57(5):497-502. doi: 10.1007/s00284-008-9275-9. Epub 2008 Oct 7.

Long-term survival of Legionella pneumophila in the viable but nonculturable state after monochloramine treatment.

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Laboratoire de Chimie et de Microbiologie de l'Eau, University of Poitiers, 86022, Poitiers Cedex, France.


Legionella pneumophila, a facultative intracellular human pathogen, can persist for long periods in natural and artificial aquatic environments. Eradication of this bacterium from plumbing systems is often difficult. We tested L. pneumophila survival after monochloramine treatment. Survival was monitored using the BacLight Bacterial Viability Kit (Molecular Probes), ChemChrome V6 Kit (Chemunex), quantitative polymerase chain reaction and culturability on buffered charcoal-yeast extract agar. In nonculturable samples, regain of culturability was obtained after addition of the amoeba Acanthamoeba castellanii, and esterase activity and membrane integrity were observed after >4 months after treatment. These results demonstrate for the first time that L. pneumophila could persist for long periods in biofilms into the viable but nonculturable (VBNC) state. Monitoring L. pneumophila in water networks is generally done by enumeration on standard solid medium. This method does not take into account VBNC bacteria. VBNC L. pneumophila could persist for long periods and should be resuscitated by amoeba. These cells constitute potential sources of contamination and should be taken into account in monitoring water networks.

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