Coinciding with major changes to its municipal water system, Flint, MI, endured Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in 2014 and 2015. By sampling premise plumbing in Flint in the fall of 2016, we found that 12% of homes harbored legionellae, a frequency similar to that in residences in neighboring areas. To evaluate the genetic diversity of Legionella pneumophila in Southeast Michigan, we determined the sequence type (ST) and serogroup (SG) of the 18 residential isolates from Flint and Detroit, MI, and the 33 clinical isolates submitted by hospitals in three area counties in 2013 to 2016. Common to one environmental and four clinical samples were strains of L. pneumophila SG1 and ST1, the most prevalent ST worldwide. Among the Flint premise plumbing isolates, 14 of 16 strains were of ST367 and ST461, two closely related SG6 strain types isolated previously from patients and corresponding environmental samples. Each of the representative SG1 clinical strains and SG6 environmental isolates from Southeast Michigan infected and survived within macrophage cultures at least as well as a virulent laboratory strain, as judged by microscopy and by enumerating CFU. Likewise, 72 h after infection, the yield of viable-cell counts increased > 100-fold for each of the representative SG1 clinical isolates, Flint premise plumbing SG6 ST367 and -461 isolates, and two Detroit residential isolates. We verified by immunostaining that SG1-specific antibody does not cross-react with the SG6 L. pneumophila environmental strains. Because the widely used urinary antigen diagnostic test does not readily detect non-SG1 L. pneumophila, Legionnaires’ disease caused by SG6 L. pneumophila is likely underreported worldwide.
Civil and Environmental Engineering | Environmental Public Health | Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Byrne BG, McColm S, McElmurry SP, Kilgore PE, Sobeck J, Sadler R, Love NG, Swanson MS. 2018. Prevalence of infectioncompetent serogroup 6 Legionella pneumophila within premise plumbing in Southeast Michigan. mBio 9:e00016-18. https:// doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00016-18.