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Identification methods for Legionella from environmental samples

Bartie, C.; Venter, S.N.; Nel, L.H.

Water Research 37(6): 1362-1370

2003


ISSN/ISBN: 0043-1354
PMID: 12598198
DOI: 10.1016/s0043-1354(02)00220-8
Accession: 010781021

Laboratories responsible for Legionella diagnostics around the world use a number of different culturing methods of non-equivalent sensitivities and specificities, to detect Legionella species in environmental samples. Specific countries usually standardize and use one approved method. For example, laboratories in Australia use the Australian Standard (AS) method and those in Europe, the International Standard method (ISO). However, no standard culturing methods have been established in South Africa to date. As a result, there is uncertainty about the true prevalence and most common species of Legionella present in the South African environment. In an attempt to provide guidelines for the development of a standard method specific for South Africa, the ISO, AS and a most probable number method were evaluated and compared. In addition, the effect of sample re-incubation with autochthonous amoebae on culture outcome was studied. Samples were collected from four environments, representing industrial water, mine water and biofilm. The samples were concentrated by membrane filtration and divided into three portions and cultured without pretreatment, after acid treatment and after heat treatment, on four culture media namely alphaBCYE, BMPA, MWY and GVPC agar. A selective approach, incorporating heat treatment, but not acid treatment, combined with culture on alphaBCYE and GVPC or MWY, was most appropriate for legionellae detection in the samples evaluated. Legionellae were cultured from 82% of the environmental samples we evaluated. In 54% of the samples tested, legionellae were present in numbers equal to or exceeding 10(2) colony-forming units per milliliter (cfu/ml). Legionella pneumophila serogroups (SGs) 1-14 were the most prevalent species and were present as single, or a combination of two or more SGs in a number of samples tested. Re-incubation of sample concentrates with autochthonous amoebae improved the culturability of legionellae in 50% of cultures on alphaBCYE and 25% on GVPC.

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