Legionella longbeachae

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Legionella longbeachae
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Bacteria
Phylum: Proteobacteria
Class: γ-proteobacteria
Order: Legionellales
Family: Legionellaceae
Genus: Legionella
Species: L. longbeachae
Binomial name
Legionella longbeachae
McKinney et al. 1982

Legionella longbeachae is one species of the family Legionellaceae. It was first isolated from a patient in Long Beach, California. It is found predominantly in soil and potting compost. In humans, the infection is sometimes called Pontiac Fever.[1] Human infection from L. longbeachae is particularly common in Australia,[2][3][4] but cases have been documented in other countries including the United States,[5] Japan,[6] Greece[7] and the UK.[8]

The infection can be very serious, often leading to hospitalisation[9] and sometimes death.[10]

Like other Legionella species, person-to-person transmission has not been documented. However, unlike other species the primary transmission mode is inhalation of dust from contaminated compost or soil that contains the organism causing legionellosis.[11]

Modes of transmission include poor hand-washing practices after gardening, long-term smoking and being near dripping hanging flower pots.[12] Awareness of a possible health risk with potting mix protected against illness.[12] Inhalation and ingestion are possible modes of transmission.[12] Exposure to aerosolized organisms and poor gardening hygiene may be important predisposing factors to L. longbeachae infection.[12]

Compost and potting mix warning labels[edit]

Compost must be handled with care, damp down with water to reduce dust before handling, use a face mask covering nose and mouth to reduce the risk of inhaling the dust, especially for those at high risk from infection.

Studies advocate the introduction of an industry standard that ensures the use of face masks when handling potting mix and attaching masks and warning labels to potting mix bags sold to the public.[13]

It is noteworthy that compost packaging in Australia has a L. longbeachae warning label. The New South Wales state government recommends that people reduce exposure to potting mix dust by following the manufacturers' warning present on potting mix labels, including:

  • Wetting down the potting mix to reduce the dust.
  • Wearing gloves and a P2 mask when using potting mix.
  • Washing hands after handling potting mix or soil, and before eating, drinking or smoking.[14]


Early symptoms include fever, chills, headache, shortness of breath, sometimes dry cough, muscle aches and pain.[15]

Most people who breathe in the bacteria do not become ill. The risk of disease is increased with age, smoking, and in people with weakened immune systems.[15]


  1. ^ Cramp, G. J.; Harte, D.; Douglas, N. M.; Graham, F.; Schousboe, M.; Sykes, K. (2009). "An outbreak of Pontiac fever due to Legionella longbeachae serogroup 2 found in potting mix in a horticultural nursery in New Zealand". Epidemiology and Infection 138 (1): 15–20. doi:10.1017/S0950268809990835. PMID 19781115.  edit
  2. ^ Alli OA, Zink S, von Lackum NK, Abu-Kwaik Y (2003). "Comparative assessment of virulence traits in Legionella spp". Microbiology 149 (Pt 3): 631–41. doi:10.1099/mic.0.25980-0. PMID 12634332. 
  3. ^ Grove DI, Lawson PJ, Burgess JS, Moran JL, O'Fathartaigh MS, Winslow WE (2002). "An outbreak of Legionella longbeachae infection in an intensive care unit?". J Hosp Infect 52 (4): 250–8. doi:10.1053/jhin.2002.1322. PMID 12473468. 
  4. ^ Korman, TM.; Fuller, A.; Ibrahim, J.; Kaye, D.; Bergin, P. (Jan 1998). "Fatal Legionella longbeachae infection following heart transplantation.". Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 17 (1): 53–5. doi:10.1007/BF01584366. PMID 9512185. 
  5. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Sep 2000). "Legionnaires' Disease associated with potting soil--California, Oregon, and Washington, May-June 2000.". MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 49 (34): 777–8. PMID 10987244. 
  6. ^ Kubota, M.; Tomii, K.; Tachikawa, R.; Harada, Y.; Seo, R.; Kaji, R.; Takeshima, Y.; Hayashi, M.; Nishimura, T. (Sep 2007). "[Legionella longbeachae pneumonia infection from home garden soil]". Nihon Kokyuki Gakkai Zasshi 45 (9): 698–703. PMID 17929472. 
  7. ^ Velonakis, EN.; Kiousi, IM.; Koutis, C.; Papadogiannakis, E.; Babatsikou, F.; Vatopoulos, A. (Sep 2009). "First isolation of Legionella species, including L. pneumophila serogroup 1, in Greek potting soils: possible importance for public health.". Clin Microbiol Infect 16 (6): 763–6. doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2009.02957.x. PMID 19747214. 
  8. ^ "Gardeners warned about Legionnaire's risk". BBC News. 2010-09-02. 
  9. ^ Yamamoto, K.; Noda, Y.; Gonda, H.; Oishi, T.; Tanikawa, Y.; Yabuuchi, E. (Mar 2001). "[A survival case of severe Legionella longbeachae pneumonia]". Kansenshogaku Zasshi 75 (3): 213–8. doi:10.11150/kansenshogakuzasshi1970.75.213. PMID 11321782. 
  10. ^ Okazaki, M.; Umeda, B.; Koide, M.; Saito, A. (Oct 1998). "[Legionella longbeachae pneumonia in a gardener]". Kansenshogaku Zasshi 72 (10): 1076–9. doi:10.11150/kansenshogakuzasshi1970.72.1076. PMID 9847527. 
  11. ^ Steele TW, Lanser J, Sangster N (1990). "Isolation of Legionella longbeachae serogroup 1 from potting mixes". Appl Environ Microbiol 56 (1): 49–53. PMC 183249. PMID 1968736. 
  12. ^ a b c d O'Connor, BA.; Carman, J.; Eckert, K.; Tucker, G.; Givney, R.; Cameron, S. (Jan 2007). "Does using potting mix make you sick? Results from a Legionella longbeachae case-control study in South Australia". Epidemiol Infect 135 (1): 34–9. doi:10.1017/S095026880600656X. PMC 2870547. PMID 16780608. 
  13. ^ Cramp, GJ.; Harte, D.; Douglas, NM.; Graham, F.; Schousboe, M.; Sykes, K. (Sep 2009). "An outbreak of Pontiac fever due to Legionella longbeachae serogroup 2 found in potting mix in a horticultural nursery in New Zealand". Epidemiol Infect 138 (1): 1–6. doi:10.1017/S0950268809990835. PMID 19781115. 
  14. ^ "Legionnaires disease Factsheet - NSW Department of Health". www.health.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  15. ^ a b "Media Release: GARDEN ALERT: WARNING TO HANDLE POTTING MIX SAFELY". www.legislation.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 

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