Flinders University microbiologist Dr Michael Taylor has taken three-dimensional images of the bacteria that offer vital insights into the behaviour of the potentially-fatal Legionella bug, providing new data that could influence future cleaning practices of water systems.
Dr Taylor said he produced the images by growing a range of bacteria, including Legionella, on a rugged microscopic “landscape” then colour-coded their individual DNAs with a fluorescent chemical in order to tell them apart.
The novel research offered important new evidence to suggest the aquatic organism could exist on its own by gaining nutrients from multiple sources, contradicting the popular scientific belief that Legionella is only capable of surviving by feeding off a host. The information, he said, could change the way human-made water systems were cleaned by targeting specific areas of the water system.
Discovered in 1976, Legionella is a naturally-occurring bacterium that thrives in man-made water systems, including showers, spas, cooling towers and soil. Under the right conditions, the bug can grow to uncontrollable levels causing Legionnaires’ disease – a serious and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia contracted by breathing in the bacteria.
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