Legionella species diversity and dynamics from surface reservoir to tap water: from cold adaptation to thermophily

ISME J. 2016 May;10(5):1064-80. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2015.199. Epub 2015 Nov 3.


Water samples of the Drinking Water Supply System (DWSS) of the city of Braunschweig were analysed for its Legionella species composition using genus-specific PCR amplicons and single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) fingerprint analyses based on 16S rRNA genes. These analyses comprised the whole supply chain including raw water, treatment process and large-scale storage, and a seasonal study of finished drinking water sampled monthly from cold and hot tap water. Treatment of raw water had a major impact on Legionella species by reducing their diversity and abundances. The Legionella species composition of the tap water was highly distinct from that of both source waters. In cold water, 8-14 different phylotypes of Legionella (PTLs) were observed per sample with relative abundances ranging from >1% to 53%. In hot water, L. pneumophila was present during all seasons at high relative abundances (8-40%) accompanied by 5-14 other PTLs of which 6 PTLs were in common with cold water. This thermophilic Legionella community, including L. pneumophila, was able to grow in the hot water above 50 °C. Such thermophilic Legionella populations are of general relevance for drinking water management and public health, but also for the ecology and evolution of the genus Legionella.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Load
  • Cities
  • Cold Temperature
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • Drinking Water / microbiology*
  • Germany
  • Legionella / classification*
  • Legionella / isolation & purification*
  • Legionella / physiology
  • Legionella pneumophila / isolation & purification
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Seasons
  • Water Purification
  • Water Supply*


  • Drinking Water
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S