, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 279-290
Date: 04 Jul 2009

Pathogenicity of the family Legionellaceae

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The Legionellae are Gram-negative bacteria able to survive and replicate in a wide range of protozoan hosts in natural environments, but they also occur in man-made aquatic systems, which are the major source of infection. After transmission to humans via aerosols, Legionella spp. can cause pneumonia (Legionnaires’ disease) or influenza-like respiratory infections (Pontiac fever). In children, Legionnaires’ disease is uncommon and is mainly diagnosed in children with immunosuppression. The clinical picture of Legionella pneumonia does not allow differentiation from pneumonia caused by others pathogens. The key to diagnosis is performing appropriate microbiological testing. The clinical presentation and the natural course of Legionnaires’ disease in children are not clear due to an insufficient number of samples, but morbidity and mortality caused by this infection are extremely high. The mortality rate for legionellosis depends on the promptness of an appropriate antibiotic therapy. Fluoroquinolones are the most efficacious drugs against Legionella. A combination of these drugs with macrolides seems to be promising in the treatment of immunosuppressed patients and individuals with severe legionellosis. Although all Legionella species are considered potentially pathogenic for humans, Legionella pneumophila is the etiological agent responsible for most reported cases of community-acquired and nosocomial legionellosis.