Study identifies primary source of community-acquired legionnaires’ disease risk

Despite being one of the most prevalent types of Legionnaires’ disease, tracking the source of cases of community-acquired Legionnaires’ disease (CALD) is notoriously difficult. An in-depth study in Berlin over three years found that the presence of a virulent type of Legionella pneumophila in household water was a significantly greater predictor for CALD than the overall concentration of all Legionella species.

Alyssa Danigelis is a professional freelance journalist who covers business, sustainability, energy, science, and technology.

Led by a group of German researchers from 2016 to 2019, the study was presented in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One. Although it was originally published in November 2020, the study recently garnered attention at the 10th Annual Conference on Legionella in Yokohama, Japan this past September

As public health professionals and regulators around the world work to mitigate potentially deadly Legionella risks, the three-year study takes on new significance. In Europe, member states continue to adapt national legislation to the updated EU Drinking Water Directive before the Jan. 12, 2023, deadline. Knowing how to best utilise environmental testing to minimise risk could make an enormous difference for labs and public health.

The study, called LeTriWa after the German terms for “Legionella in drinking water,” was a massive collaborative effort involving the Robert Koch Institute, the German Environment Agency, the national Legionella lab, the State Department for Health and Social Affairs in Berlin, and a dozen health authorities and hospitals across the city.

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