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Lancet. 1999 Jan 23;353(9149):272-7.

Effect of monochloramine disinfection of municipal drinking water on risk of nosocomial Legionnaires' disease.

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Respiratory Diseases Branch, Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



Many Legionella infections are acquired through inhalation or aspiration of drinking water. Although about 25% of municipalities in the USA use monochloramine for disinfection of drinking water, the effect of monochloramine on the occurrence of Legionnaires' disease has never been studied.


We used a case-control study to compare disinfection methods for drinking water supplied to 32 hospitals that had had outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease with the disinfection method for water supplied to 48 control-hospitals, with control for selected hospital characteristics and water treatment factors.


Hospitals supplied with drinking water containing free chlorine as a residual disinfectant were more likely to have a reported outbreak of Legionnaires' disease than those that used water with monochloramine as a residual disinfectant (odds ratio 10.2 [95% CI 1.4-460]). This result suggests that 90% of outbreaks associated with drinking water might not have occurred if monochloramine had been used instead of free chlorine for residual disinfection (attributable proportion 0.90 [0.29-1.00]).


The protective effect of monochloramine against legionella should be confirmed by other studies. Chloramination of drinking water may be a cost-effective method for control of Legionnaires' disease at the municipal level or in individual hospitals, and widespread implementation could prevent thousands of cases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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