Survey of pathogenic free-living amoebae and Legionella spp. in mud spring recreation area

Water Res. 2009 Jun;43(11):2817-28. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2009.04.002. Epub 2009 Apr 14.


Acanthamoeba, Hartmannella, and Naegleria are free-living amoebae, ubiquitous in aquatic environments. Several species within these genera are recognized as potential human pathogens. These free-living amoebae may facilitate the proliferation of their parasitical bacteria, such as Legionella. In this study, we identified Acanthamoeba, Hartmannella, Naegleria, and Legionella using various analytical procedures and investigated their occurrence at a mud spring recreation area in Taiwan. We investigated factors potentially associated with the prevalence of the pathogens, including various water types, and physical and microbiological water quality parameters. Spring water was collected from 34 sites and Acanthamoeba, Hartmannella, Naegleria, and Legionella were detected in 8.8%, 35.3%, 14.7%, and 47.1%, respectively. The identified species of Acanthamoeba included Acanthamoeba castellanii and Acanthamoeba polyphaga. Nearly all the Hartmannella isolates are identified as Hartmannella vermiformis. The Naegleria species included Naegleria australiensis and its sister groups, and two other isolates referred to a new clade of Naegleria genotypes. The Legionella species identified included unnamed Legionella genotypes, Legionella pneumophila serotype 6, uncultured Legionella spp., Legionella lytica, Legionella drancourtii, and Legionella waltersii. Significant differences (Mann-Whitney U test, P<0.05) were observed between the presence/absence of Hartmannella and total coliforms, between the presence/absence of Naegleria and heterotrophic plate counts, and between the presence/absence of Legionella and heterotrophic plate counts. This survey confirms that pathogenic free-living amoebae and Legionella are prevalent in this Taiwanese mud spring recreation area. The presence of pathogens should be considered a potential health threat when associated with human activities in spring water.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba / classification
  • Acanthamoeba / isolation & purification*
  • Animals
  • Hartmannella / classification
  • Hartmannella / genetics
  • Hartmannella / isolation & purification*
  • Legionella / classification
  • Legionella / genetics
  • Legionella / isolation & purification*
  • Naegleria / classification
  • Naegleria / genetics
  • Naegleria / isolation & purification*
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics
  • Recreation
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Water / parasitology
  • Water Microbiology*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • Water