Legionella longbeachae

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Legionella longbeachae
Scientific classification edit
Domain: Bacteria
Phylum: Pseudomonadota
Class: Gammaproteobacteria
Order: Legionellales
Family: Legionellaceae
Genus: Legionella
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]

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, but unlike other species, the primary transmission mode has not been proven, but likely is inhalation or aspiration of dust from contaminated compost or soil that contains the organism causing legionellosis.[11]

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]


Left,right)Lesion after incision and drainage in immunosuppressed individual with cutaneous Legionella longbeachae infection

Early symptoms include fever, chills, headache, shortness of breath, sometimes dry cough, and muscle aches and pain.[13]

Most people who breathe in the bacteria do not become ill. The risk of disease is increased with increased age and smoking, and in people with weakened immune systems.[13]

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.[14]

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:

  • Wetting down the potting mix to reduce the dust
  • Wearing gloves and a P2 mask when using potting mix
  • Washing hands after handling potting mix or soil, and before eating, drinking or smoking[15]


  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.
  3. Grove DI, Lawson PJ, Burgess JS, Moran JL, O'Fathartaigh MS, Winslow WE (2002). "An outbreak of Legionella longbeachae infection in an intensive care unit?". J Hosp Infect. 52 (4): 250–8. doi:10.1053/jhin.2002.1322. PMID 12473468.
  4. Korman, TM.; Fuller, A.; Ibrahim, J.; Kaye, D.; Bergin, P. (Jan 1998). "Fatal Legionella longbeachae infection following heart transplantation". Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 17 (1): 53–5. doi:10.1007/BF01584366. PMID 9512185.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Sep 2000). "Legionnaires' disease associated with potting soil--California, Oregon, and Washington, May-June 2000". MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 49 (34): 777–8. PMID 10987244.
  6. Kubota, M.; Tomii, K.; Tachikawa, R.; Harada, Y.; Seo, R.; Kaji, R.; Takeshima, Y.; Hayashi, M.; Nishimura, T. (Sep 2007). "[Legionella longbeachae pneumonia infection from home garden soil]". Nihon Kokyuki Gakkai Zasshi. 45 (9): 698–703. PMID 17929472.
  7. Velonakis, EN.; Kiousi, IM.; Koutis, C.; Papadogiannakis, E.; Babatsikou, F.; Vatopoulos, A. (Sep 2009). "First isolation of Legionella species, including L. pneumophila serogroup 1, in Greek potting soils: possible importance for public health". Clin Microbiol Infect. 16 (6): 763–6. doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2009.02957.x. PMID 19747214.
  8. "Gardeners warned about Legionnaire's risk". BBC News. 2010-09-02. Archived from the original on 2015-09-25. Retrieved 2023-01-28.
  9. Yamamoto, K.; Noda, Y.; Gonda, H.; Oishi, T.; Tanikawa, Y.; Yabuuchi, E. (Mar 2001). "[A survival case of severe Legionella longbeachae pneumonia]". Kansenshogaku Zasshi. 75 (3): 213–8. doi:10.11150/kansenshogakuzasshi1970.75.213. PMID 11321782.
  10. Okazaki, M.; Umeda, B.; Koide, M.; Saito, A. (Oct 1998). "[Legionella longbeachae pneumonia in a gardener]". Kansenshogaku Zasshi. 72 (10): 1076–9. doi:10.11150/kansenshogakuzasshi1970.72.1076. PMID 9847527.
  11. Steele TW, Lanser J, Sangster N (1990). "Isolation of Legionella longbeachae serogroup 1 from potting mixes". Appl Environ Microbiol. 56 (1): 49–53. PMC 183249. PMID 1968736.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 O'Connor, BA.; Carman, J.; Eckert, K.; Tucker, G.; Givney, R.; Cameron, S. (Jan 2007). "Does using potting mix make you sick? Results from a Legionella longbeachae case-control study in South Australia". Epidemiol Infect. 135 (1): 34–9. doi:10.1017/S095026880600656X. PMC 2870547. PMID 16780608.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Media Release: GARDEN ALERT: WARNING TO HANDLE POTTING MIX SAFELY". www.legislation.vic.gov.au. Archived from the original on 2010-03-26. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
  14. 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.
  15. "Legionnaires disease Factsheet - NSW Department of Health". www.health.nsw.gov.au. Archived from the original on 2009-07-12. Retrieved 2009-10-28.

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