What is Legionnaires disease?

Updated: Aug 24, 2018
  • Author: Burke A Cunha, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
  • Print
Answer

Legionnaires disease (LD) is the pneumonia caused by Legionella pneumophila. LD also refers to a more benign, self-limited, acute febrile illness known as Pontiac fever, which has been linked serologically to L pneumophila, although it presents without pneumonia. (See Pathophysiology and Etiology.)

L pneumophila is an important cause of nosocomial and community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) and must be considered a possible causative pathogen in any patient who presents with atypical pneumonia. (See Clinical Presentation and Workup.)

The Legionella bacterium was first identified in the summer of 1976 during the 58th annual convention of the American Legion, which was held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. Infection was presumed to be spread by contamination of the water in the hotel's air conditioning system. The presentation ranged from mild flulike symptoms to multisystem organ failure. Of the 182 people infected, 29 died.

Although Legionella was not identified until 1976, L pneumophila was subsequently found in a clinical specimen dating to 1943 and, according to retrospective analysis, may have been responsible for pre-1976 pneumonia epidemics in Philadelphia; Washington, DC; and Minnesota.

Legionnaires disease is the term that collectively describes infections caused by members of the Legionellaceae family.


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!