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Paper: VA hospital bacteria almost same as in 1982

The strain of bacteria that caused a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in a Veterans Affairs hospital in western Pennsylvania is "almost identical" to the strain found there more than three decades ago, a newspaper reported.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (http://bit.ly/ZBHAYG ) said Sunday it had obtained documents indicating that the Legionella bacteria found in October at the Oakland hospital match five of seven genes of the 1982 bacteria.

"This indicates the Legionella found in the hospital in 1982 is almost identical to the Legionella found in this outbreak, suggesting that the pathogenic strain may have persisted in the hospital's water system for many years," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report last month.

The report said the bacteria linked to at least five deaths might have survived in the water system decades of hot water flushes, chemical disinfectant cycles and installation of a copper-silver ionization system designed to kill it.

Janet Stout, a microbiologist who worked on the research team that responded to the 1982 outbreak, told the paper that layers of slime and calcium in pipes could shelter the bacteria.

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