Legionella pneumophila organisms are able to infect and multiply within the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena pyriformis. This ability may be associated with virulence, because an attenuated strain of L. pneumophila fails to multiply within this protozoan, whereas a virulent strain increases 10,000-fold in number when coincubated with T. pyriformis. Seventeen strains (11 species) of legionellae were evaluated for virulence by intraperitoneal injection of guinea pigs and inoculation of protozoan cultures. Analysis of the data indicates that there are four categories of legionellae with respect to virulence as follows: organisms that infect and kill guinea pigs and multiply in T. pyriformis; organisms that infect but do not kill guinea pigs and multiply in T. pyriformis; organisms that do not infect guinea pigs but are lethal at high concentrations and multiply in T. pyriformis; and organisms that neither infect nor kill guinea pigs and fail to multiply in T. pyriformis. Evidence suggests that these distinctions are based on two virulence factors: intracellular multiplication in a host and toxic activity
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