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How Legionella subverts to survive

Bacteria of the genus Legionella have evolved a sophisticated system to replicate in the phagocytic cells of their hosts. LMU researchers have now identified a novel component of this system.

In humans, Legionella is responsible for the so-called Legionnaires’ disease, a form of bacterial pneumonia that is often lethal. The bacteria can also cause Pontiac fever, a flu-like condition characterized by coughing and vomiting. Most Legionella-associated illnesses in humans are caused by Legionella pneumophila.

These microorganisms are found in soil, lakes and rivers, and can enter our water supply via the groundwater. The greatest risk of human infection arises when the bacteria colonize air-conditioning ducts or piping used to transport warm water. Persons can be infected when they inhale contaminated aerosols – in the shower, for instance.

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