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Compost and Legionella longbeachae : an emerging infection?

Currie, Sandra L. and Beattie, Tara K. (2015) Compost and Legionella longbeachae : an emerging infection? Perspectives in Public Health, 135 (6). pp. 309-315. ISSN 1757-9139

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Human disease caused by Legionella species is dominated by Legionella pneumophila, the main causative agent in cases of Legionnaires’ disease. However, other species are known to cause infection, for example, Legionella longbeachae causes an equivalent number of cases of disease as L. pneumophila in Australia and New Zealand. Infection with L. longbeachae is commonly associated with exposure to composts and potting soils, and cases of infection with this organism have been increasing in Europe over the past ten years. The increase in incidence may be linked to factors such as increased awareness of clinical presentation, or due to changing formulation of growing media, although it should be noted that the presence of Legionella species in growing media does not correlate with the number of cases currently seen. This is likely due to the variables associated with infection, for example, host factors such as smoking or underlying health conditions, or difference in growing media storage or climate, especially warm humid conditions, which may affect survival and growth of these organisms in the growing media environment. There are numerous unknowns in this area and collaboration between growing media manufacturers and researchers, as well as more awareness among diagnosing clinicians, laboratory staff and the general public is necessary to reduce risk. More research is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn: L. pneumophila research currently dominates the field and it is likely that the overreliance on diagnostic techniques such as the urinary antigen test, which is specific for L. pneumophila Sg 1, is detrimental to the diagnosis of L. longbeachae infection.