A protocol for sampling environmental sites was developed and used to identify possible sources of Legionella species in support of epidemiologic investigations at two hospitals. In hospital A, legionellae were isolated from 43 of 106 (40%) different sites. Three separate Legionella pneumophila serotypes and a previously unrecognized species were present in different combinations in the positive samples. Two of five cooling towers contained the same L. pneumophila serogroup 1 monoclonal type (1,2,4,5) as was isolated from patients. The same monoclonal type was also isolated from make-up water for the two cooling towers, a hot water tank, water separators in four main air compressor systems for respiratory therapy, and cold and hot water faucets. In hospital B, 13 of 37 (38%) sample sites contained legionellae, all of which were L. pneumophila serogroup 1. The monoclonal type matching isolates from patients (1,2,4,5) was found at the highest concentration in a hot water tank, but it was also present at four other sample sites. Since legionellae not related to disease may be found in many of the sites sampled, an epidemiologic association with the probable source should be established before intervention methods, such as disinfection, are undertaken
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