Viable Legionella pneumophila bacteria in natural soil and rainwater puddles




For the majority of sporadic Legionnaires’ disease cases the source of infection remains unknown. Infection may possible result from exposure to Legionella bacteria in sources that are not yet considered in outbreak investigations. Therefore, potential sources of pathogenic Legionella bacteria—natural soil and rainwater puddles on roads—were studied in 2012.

Methods and Results

Legionella bacteria were detected in 30% (6/20) of soils and 3·9% (3/77) of rainwater puddles by amoebal coculture. Legionella pneumophila was isolated from two out of six Legionella positive soil samples and two out of three Legionella positive rainwater samples. Several other species were found including the pathogenic Leg. gormanii and Leg. longbeachae. Sequence types (ST) could be assigned to two Leg. pneumophila strains isolated from soil, ST710 and ST477, and one strain isolated from rainwater, ST1064. These sequence types were previously associated with Legionnaires’ disease patients.


Rainwater and soil may be alternative sources for Legionella.

Significance and Impact of the Study

The detection of clinically relevant strains indicates that rainwater and soil are potential sources of Legionella bacteria and future research should assess the public health implication of the presence of Leg. pneumophila in rainwater puddles and natural soil.