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J Infect Dis. 1993 May;167(5):1138-45.

Legionella pneumophila replicates within rat alveolar epithelial cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Calgary, Canada.


Legionella pneumophila replicates in the distal pulmonary airspace, causing legionnaires' pneumonia. Legionella organisms replicate within alveolar macrophages and recruited blood monocytes; however, when these cells are activated, they become potent inhibitors of L. pneumophila proliferation. L. pneumophila may replicate in other cells and thereby avoid the host defenses of macrophages. Experiments demonstrated that L. pneumophila replicate within primary cultures of rat pulmonary alveolar epithelial cells. Double-label immunofluorescent and electron microscopy demonstrated L. pneumophila within epithelial cells. Replication of L. pneumophila required similar numbers of alveolar epithelial cells or alveolar macrophages, required viable epithelial cells, and took place intracellularly. While replication of L. pneumophila occurred in both serum-free and serum-containing media, it was enhanced in the presence of serum. Pulmonary alveolar epithelial cells may represent an alternative site for replication of Legionella species in the terminal airspace and thus clarify some previously unexplained aspects of the pathogenesis of legionnaires' disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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