Dispersion of Legionella bacteria in atmosphere: A practical source location estimation method

Steven Dyke, Iain Barrass, Kevin Pollock, Ian M Hall

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Legionnaires' disease, a form of pneumonia which can be fatal, is transmitted via the inhalation of water droplets containing Legionella bacteria. These droplets can be dispersed in the atmosphere several kilometers from their source. The most common such sources are contaminated water within cooling towers and other air-conditioning systems but other sources such as ornamental fountains and spa pools have also caused outbreaks of the disease in the past. There is an obvious need to locate and eliminate any such sources as quickly as possible. Here a maximum likelihood model estimating the source of an outbreak from case location data has been developed and implemented. Unlike previous models, the average dose exposure sub-model is formulated using a atmospheric dispersion model. How the uncertainty in inferred parameters can be estimated is discussed. The model is applied to the 2012 Edinburgh Legionnaires' disease outbreak.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0224144
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2019


  • Air Conditioning/adverse effects
  • Air Microbiology
  • Atmosphere/analysis
  • Computer Simulation
  • Disease Outbreaks/prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Legionella pneumophila/isolation & purification
  • Legionnaires' Disease/microbiology
  • Likelihood Functions
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology


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