There are over 50 different named species in the Legionella family, and more that are, as yet, unnamed. Most of these have either never or rarely cause human disease. Five species from this rather large family were first isolated in Australia. These are:
Both L.adelaidensis and L.fairfieldensis were isolated from a cooling tower systems in 1990 – one in Adelaide on in Fairfield, Victoria. The isolation L.quinlivanii was from a bus evaporative air conditioning system in 1988 and named after it’s discoverer. At the time the buses were touted as a potential source of Legionnaire’s disease. This theory was shown to be false. Interestingly L. steelei was isolated from the lungs of individuals in Adelaide and the US in 2012. Yet it did not appear to be causing infection in either case. The same organism was found in both locations at the same time. It was named after the Adelaide clinician who led the investigation into potting mix associated disease in the late 1980’s. Finally L.waltersii was isolated from a drinking water supply system in Adelaide, SA in 1995. This species named after the manager of the laboratories of the water utility.
Legionella species capital
As you can see South Australia seems to be the Australian capital for Legionella species. The first major field study of Legionella ecology and control in cooling water systems began in South Australia in 1988. This four year study was conducted years in Adelaide, South Australia. It included over 10,000 samples from 80+ cooling towers. Additionally, SA was also the first globally to recognise cases of Legionnaire’s disease caused by Legionella longbeachae growing in potting mixes. The first isolation of this species was from patients in Longbeach, California in the USA. The source of the infection at that time was a mystery.
So South Australia has almost 30 years of innovation and discovery – leading the way in the Australian Legionella world!!