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Water Res. 2019 Jun 1;156:277-286. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2019.03.019. Epub 2019 Mar 19.

Legionella pneumophila levels and sequence-type distribution in hospital hot water samples from faucets to connecting pipes.

Author information

1
Department of Civil Engineering, Polytechnique Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada; Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, McGill University, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, Canada. Electronic address: emilie.bedard@polymtl.ca.
2
Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, McGill University, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, Canada.
3
Laboratoire de santé publique du Québec, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, Canada.
4
Centre d'expertise en analyse environnementale du Québec, Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, Québec, Canada.
5
Department of Microbiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada.
6
Department of Civil Engineering, Polytechnique Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada.

Abstract

Recent studies have reported increased levels of Legionella pneumophila (Lp) at points of use compared to levels in primary and secondary components of hot water systems, suggesting possible selection by environmental conditions. In this study, concentrations of Lp in a hospital hot water system were evaluated by profile sampling, collecting successive water samples to determine the prevalence at the faucet (distal) and upstream piping before and after a system intervention to increase temperature. Lp strain diversity was compared between different points of use and different areas of the hot water system (i.e., tap, intermediate piping and main upflow piping). In total, 47 isolates were recovered from 32 positive hot water samples collected from designated taps, showers and recirculation loops; these isolates were subsequently analyzed by sequence-based typing (SBT). Lp levels were comparable between first draw (500 mL) and flushed (2 and 5 min) samples, whereas a decrease was observed in the amount of culturable cells (1 log). Two sequence types (STs) were identified throughout the system. ST378 (sg4/10) was present in 91% of samples, while ST154-like (sg1) was present in 41%; both STs were simultaneously recovered in 34% of samples. Isolated STs displayed comparable tolerance to copper (0.8-5 mg/L) and temperature (55 °C, 1 h) exposure. The ability to replicate within THP1 cells and Acanthamoeba castellanii was similar between the two STs and a comparative environmental outbreak strain. The low Lp diversity and the detection of both Lp sequence types in repeated subsequent samples collected from positive faucets in a hospital wing suggest a minimal impact of the distal conditions on strain selection for the sampled points, as well as a possible adaptation to stressors present in the system, leading to the predominance of a few strains.

KEYWORDS:

Bacterial load profiles; Building plumbing; Hospital; Hot water system; Legionella pneumophila strain dominance; Sequence-based typing

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