Legionella longbeachae

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Legionella longbeachae
Scientific classification
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 potting soil and 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]

In biology, a species ( ) is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined. While these definitions may seem adequate, when looked at more closely they represent problematic species concepts. For example, the boundaries between closely related species become unclear with hybridisation, in a species complex of hundreds of similar microspecies, and in a ring species. Also, among organisms that reproduce only asexually, the concept of a reproductive species breaks down, and each clone is potentially a microspecies.

Compost organic matter that has been decomposed

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed in a process called composting. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner.

Pontiac fever is an acute, nonfatal respiratory disease caused by various species of Gram-negative bacteria in the genus Legionella. It causes a mild upper respiratory infection that resembles acute influenza. Pontiac fever resolves spontaneously and often goes undiagnosed. Both Pontiac fever and the more severe Legionnaire's disease are caused by the same bacteria, but Pontiac fever does not include pneumonia.


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 has not been proven but it seems likely that it is inhalation or aspiration of dust from contaminated compost or soil that contains the organism causing legionellosis. [11]

<i>Legionella</i> genus of bacteria

The genus Legionella is a pathogenic group of Gram-negative bacteria that includes the species L. pneumophila, causing legionellosis including a pneumonia-type illness called Legionnaires' disease and a mild flu-like illness called Pontiac fever.

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

Compost must be handled with care, damped down with water to reduce dust before handling, and use of a face mask covering the nose and mouth to reduce the risk of inhaling the dust is needed, 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]

Compost packaging in Australia has an 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:

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In September 2018, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.


Early symptoms include fever, chills, headache, shortness of breath, sometimes dry cough, and 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]

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  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.
  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.
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  8. "Gardeners warned about Legionnaire's risk". BBC News. 2010-09-02.
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  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): 15. doi:10.1017/S0950268809990835. PMID   19781115.
  14. "Legionnaires disease Factsheet - NSW Department of Health". www.health.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
  15. 1 2 "Media Release: GARDEN ALERT: WARNING TO HANDLE POTTING MIX SAFELY". www.legislation.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 2009-10-28.