• Biogeography and Environmental Drivers of Abundance and Genotype Composition Across the West Bank: Relevance of a Genotype-Based Ecology for Understanding Occurrence.

      Zayed, Ashraf R; Butmeh, Suha; Pecellin, Marina; Salah, Alaa; Alalam, Hanna; Steinert, Michael; Höfle, Manfred G; Bitar, Dina M; Brettar, Ingrid; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2020-12-01)
      The West Bank can be considered as a high-risk area for Legionella prevalence in drinking water due to high ambient temperature, intermittent water supply, frequent pressure loss, and storage of drinking water in roof containers. To assess occurrence of Legionella species, especially L. pneumophila, in the drinking water of the West Bank, the drinking water distribution systems of eight hospitals were sampled over a period of 2.3 years covering the seasonal cycle and the major geographic regions. To gain insight into potential environmental drivers, a set of physico-chemical and microbiological parameters was recorded. Sampling included drinking water and biofilm analyzed by culture and PCR-based methods. Cultivation led to the isolation of 180 strains of L. pneumophila that were genotyped by Multi-Locus Variable Number of Tandem Repeat Analysis (MLVA). Surprisingly, the abundance of culturable L. pneumophila was low in drinking water of the sampling sites, with only three out of eight sites where Legionella was observed at all (range: 30-500 CFU/liter). By contrast, biofilm and PCR-based analyses showed a higher prevalence. Statistical analyses with physico-chemical parameters revealed a decrease of L. pneumophila abundance for water and biofilm with increasing magnesium concentrations (>30 mg/l). MLVA-genotype analysis of the L. pneumophila isolates and their spatial distribution indicated three niches characterized by distinct physico-chemical parameters and inhabited by specific consortia of genotypes. This study provides novel insights into mechanisms shaping L. pneumophila populations and triggering their abundance leading to an understanding of their genotype-specific niches and ecology in support of improved prevention measures.
    • Characterization of Populations by Multilocus Variable Number of Tandem Repeats (MLVA) Genotyping from Drinking Water and Biofilm in Hospitals from Different Regions of the West Bank.

      Zayed, Ashraf R; Pecellin, Marina; Salah, Alaa; Alalam, Hanna; Butmeh, Suha; Steinert, Michael; Lesnik, Rene; Brettar, Ingrid; Höfle, Manfred G; Bitar, Dina M; et al. (MDPI, 2020-10-22)
      The West Bank can be considered a high-risk area for Legionnaires' disease (LD) due to its hot climate, intermittent water supply and roof storage of drinking water. Legionella, mostly L. pneumophila, are responsible for LD, a severe, community-acquired and nosocomial pneumonia. To date, no extensive assessment of Legionella spp and L. pneumophila using cultivation in combination with molecular approaches in the West Bank has been published. Two years of environmental surveillance of Legionella in water and biofilms in the drinking water distribution systems (DWDS) of eight hospitals was carried out; 180 L. pneumophila strains were isolated, mostly from biofilms in DWDS. Most of the isolates were identified as serogroup (Sg) 1 (60%) and 6 (30%), while a minor fraction comprised Sg 8 and 10. Multilocus Variable number of tandem repeats Analysis using 13 loci (MLVA-8(12)) was applied as a high-resolution genotyping method and compared to the standard Sequence Based Typing (SBT). The isolates were genotyped in 27 MLVA-8(12) genotypes (Gt), comprising four MLVA clonal complexes (VACC 1; 2; 5; 11). The major fraction of isolates constituted Sequence Type (ST)1 and ST461. Most of the MLVA-genotypes were highly diverse and often unique. The MLVA-genotype composition showed substantial regional variability. In general, the applied MLVA-method made it possible to reproducibly genotype the isolates, and was consistent with SBT but showed a higher resolution. The advantage of the higher resolution was most evident for the subdivision of the large strain sets of ST1 and ST461; these STs were shown to be highly pneumonia-relevant in a former study. This shows that the resolution by MLVA is advantageous for back-tracking risk sites and for the avoidance of outbreaks of L. pneumophila. Overall, our results provide important insights into the detailed population structure of L. pneumophila, allowing for better risk assessment for DWDS.
    • Cytotoxicity, Intracellular Replication, and Contact-Dependent Pore Formation of Genotyped Environmental Isolates from Hospital Water Systems in the West Bank, Palestine.

      Zayed, Ashraf R; Pecellin, Marina; Jaber, Lina; Butmeh, Suha; Bahader, Shereen A; Steinert, Michael; Höfle, Manfred G; Brettar, Ingrid; Bitar, Dina M; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (MDPI, 2021-04-01)
      Legionella pneumophila is the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease. Due to the hot climate and intermittent water supply, the West Bank, Palestine, can be considered a high-risk area for this often fatal atypical pneumonia. L. pneumophila occurs in biofilms of natural and man-made freshwater environments, where it infects and replicates intracellularly within protozoa. To correlate the genetic diversity of the bacteria in the environment with their virulence properties for protozoan and mammalian host cells, 60 genotyped isolates from hospital water systems in the West Bank were analyzed. The L. pneumophila isolates were previously genotyped by high resolution Multi Locus Variable Number of Tandem Repeat Analysis (MLVA-8(12)) and sorted according to their relationship in clonal complexes (VACC). Strains of relevant genotypes and VACCs were compared according to their capacity to infect Acanthamoeba castellanii and THP-1 macrophages, and to mediate pore-forming cytotoxicity in sheep red blood cells (sRBCs). Based on a previous detailed analysis of the biogeographic distribution and abundance of the MLVA-8(12)-genotypes, the focus of the study was on the most abundant L. pneumophila- genotypes Gt4(17), Gt6 (18) and Gt10(93) and the four relevant clonal complexes [VACC1, VACC2, VACC5 and VACC11]. The highly abundant genotypes Gt4(17) and Gt6(18) are affiliated with VACC1 and sequence type (ST)1 (comprising L. pneumophila str. Paris), and displayed seroroup (Sg)1. Isolates of these two genotypes exhibited significantly higher virulence potentials compared to other genotypes and clonal complexes in the West Bank. Endemic for the West Bank was the clonal complex VACC11 (affiliated with ST461) represented by three relevant genotypes that all displayed Sg6. These genotypes unique for the West Bank showed a lower infectivity and cytotoxicity compared to all other clonal complexes and their affiliated genotypes. Interestingly, the L. pneumophila serotypes ST1 and ST461 were previously identified by in situ-sequence based typing (SBT) as main causative agents of Legionnaires' disease (LD) in the West Bank at a comparable level. Overall, this study demonstrates the site-specific regional diversity of L. pneumophila genotypes in the West Bank and suggests that a combination of MLVA, cellular infection assays and hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis allows an improved genotype-based risk assessment.