Hospital-acquired legionellosis: solutions for a preventable infection

Miguel Sabria, Victor L. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

151 Citations (Scopus)


Hospital-acquired Legionnaires' disease has been reported from many hospitals since the first outbreak in 1976. Although cooling towers were linked to the cases of Legionnaires' disease in the years after its discovery, potable water has been the environmental source for almost all reported hospital outbreaks. Microaspiration is the major mode of transmission in hospital-acquired Legionnaires' disease; showering is not a mode of transmission. Since the clinical manifestations are nonspecific, and specialised laboratory testing is required, hospital-acquired legionellosis is easily underdiagnosed. Discovery of a single case of hospital-acquired Legionnaires' disease is an important sentinel of additional undiscovered cases. Routine environmental culture of the hospital water supply for legionella has proven to be an important strategy in prevention. Documentation of legionella colonisation in the water supply would increase physician index of suspicion for Legionnaires' disease and the necessity for in-house legionella test methods would be obvious. Legionella is a common commensal of large-building water supplies. Preventive maintenance is commonly recommended; unfortunately, this measure is ineffective in minimising legionella colonisation of building water supplies. Copper-silver ionisation systems have emerged as the most successful long-term disinfection method for hospital water disinfection systems. There is a need for public-health agencies to educate the public and media that discovery of cases identifies those hospitals as providers of superior care, and that such hospitals are not negligent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-373
JournalLancet Infectious Diseases
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2002


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