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Am J Med Sci. 1987 Aug;294(2):97-9.

Routine culturing for Legionella in the hospital environment may be a good idea: a three-hospital prospective study.


The source for nosocomial Legionnaires' disease is the water distribution system. However, the implications for legionella contamination in a hospital without known Legionnaires' disease is unclear. Therefore, culturing for Legionella pneumophila in the environment has not been routinely recommended. The authors conducted a prospective pneumonia study in three hospitals, none of which was known to have a major problem with endemic legionellosis. The water system of Hospital 1 was colonized with L. pneumophila, serogroup 1; Hospital 2 was colonized by L. pneumophila, serogroup 5 (which is rarely associated with disease); Hospital 3 was essentially free of L. pneumophila. Sputum culture on selective legionella media, direct fluorescent antibody testing, and serology were performed for all nosocomial pneumonias regardless of clinical impression. At the end of the study the incidence of nosocomial legionnaires' disease was found to be 9%, 0%, and 0% in Hospitals 1, 2, and found to be 9%, 0%, and 0% in Hospitals 1, 2, and 3, respectively. In Hospital 1, monoclonal antibody subtyping confirmed that the patient isolates were identical to the environmental isolates. The authors conclude that environmental culturing, despite the absence of known Legionnaires' disease, is useful. Positive cultures from the hospital water supply would mandate the introduction of legionella testing into the laboratory and stimulate physicians to consider Legionnaires' disease when encountering nosocomial pneumonias.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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