ABSTRACT: Legionella species are the causative agents of human legionellosis, and bathing facilities have been identified as the sources of infection in several outbreaks in Japan. Researchers in Japan have recently reported evidence of significant associations between bacterial counts and the occurrence of Legionella in bathing facilities and in a hot tub model. A convenient and quantitative bacterial enumeration method is therefore required as an indicator of Legionella contamination or disinfection to replace existing methods such as time-consuming Legionella culture and expensive Legionella-DNA amplification. In this study, we developed a rapid detection method (RDM) to monitor the risk of Legionella using an automated microbial analyzing device based on flow cytometry techniques to measure the total number of bacteria in water samples within two minutes, by detecting typical patterns of scattered light and fluorescence. We first compared the results of our RDM with plate counting results for five filtered hot spring water samples spiked with three species of bacteria, including Legionella. Inactivation of these samples by chlorine was also assessed by the RDM, a live/dead bacterial fluorescence assay and plate counting. Using the RDM, the lower limit of quantitative bacterial counts in the spiked samples was determined as 3.0×10(3)(3.48log)counts mL(-1). We then used a laboratory model of a hot tub and found that the RDM could monitor the growth curve of naturally occurring heterotrophic bacteria with 1 and 2 days' delayed growth of amoeba and Legionella, respectively, and could also determine the killing curve of these bacteria by chlorination. Finally, samples with ≥3.48 or <3.48log total bacterial counts mL(-1) were tested using the RDM from 149 different hot tubs, and were found to be significantly associated with the positive or negative detection of Legionella with 95% sensitivity and 84% specificity. These findings indicated that the RDM can be used for Legionella control at bathing facilities, especially those where the effectiveness of chlorine is reduced by the presence of Fe(2+), Mn(2+), NH(4)(+), skin debris, and/or biofilms in the water.
Journal of microbiological methods 03/2011; 86(1):25-32. · 2.43 Impact Factor