Legionella species colonization of water distribution systems, pools and air conditioning systems in cruise ships and ferries
AuthorGoutziana, G.; Mouchtouri, V. A.; Karanika, M.; Kavagias, A.; Stathakis, N. E.; Gourgoulianis, K.; Kremastinou, J.; Hadjichristodoulou, C.
Background: Legionnaires' disease continues to be a public health concern in passenger ships. This study was scheduled in order to investigate Legionella spp. colonization of water distribution systems (WDS), recreational pools, and air-conditioning systems on board ferries and cruise ships in an attempt to identify risk factors for Legionella spp. colonization associated with ship water systems and water characteristics. Methods: Water systems of 21 ferries and 10 cruise ships including WDS, air conditioning systems and pools were investigated for the presence of Legionella spp. Results: The 133 samples collected from the 10 cruise ships WDS, air conditioning systems and pools were negative for Legionella spp. Of the 21 ferries WDS examined, 14 (66.7%) were legionellae-positive. A total of 276 samples were collected from WDS and air conditioning systems. Legionella spp. was isolated from 37.8% of the hot water samples and 17.5% of the cold water samples. Of the total 96 positive isolates, 87 (90.6%) were L. pneumophila. Legionella spp. colonization was positively associated with ship age. The temperature of the hot water samples was negatively associated with colonization of L. pneumophila serogroup (sg) 1 and that of L. pneumophila sg 2 to 14. Increases in pH >= 7.8 and total plate count >= 400 CFU/L, correlated positively with the counts of L. pneumophila sg 2 to 14 and Legionella spp. respectively. Free chlorine of >= 0.2 mg/L inhibited colonization of Legionella spp. Conclusion: WDS of ferries can be heavily colonized by Legionella spp. and may present a risk of Legionnaires' disease for passengers and crew members. Guidelines and advising of Legionnaires' disease prevention regarding ferries are needed, in particular for operators and crew members.