Resistance ofLegionellaandAcanthamoeba mauritaniensisto heat treatment as determined by relative and quantitative polymerase chain reactions
Legionella and Acanthamoeba spp. persist in harvested rainwater pasteurized at high temperatures (> 72 °C) and the interaction mechanisms exhibited between these organisms need to be elucidated. The resistance of two Legionella reference strains (Legionella pneumophila ATCC 33152 and Legionella longbeachae ATCC 33462), three environmental strains [Legionella longbeachae (env.), Legionella norrlandica (env.) and Legionella rowbothamii (env.)] and Acanthamoeba mauritaniensis ATCC 50676 to heat treatment (50–90 °C) was determined by monitoring culturability and viability [ethidium monoazide quantitative polymerase chain reaction (EMA-qPCR)]. The expression of metabolic and virulence genes of L. pneumophila ATCC 33152 (lolA, sidF, csrA) and L. longbeachae (env.) (lolA) in co-culture with A. mauritaniensis ATCC 50676 during heat treatment (50–90 °C) was monitored using relative qPCR. While the culturability (CFU/mL) and viability (gene copies/mL) of the Legionella strains reduced significantly (p < 0.05) following heat treatment (60–90 °C), L. longbeachae (env.) and L. pneumophila ATCC 33152 were culturable following heat treatment at 50–60 °C. Metabolically active trophozoites and dormant cysts of A. mauritaniensis ATCC 50676 were detected at 50 °C and 60–90 °C, respectively. For L. pneumophila ATCC 33152, lolA expression remained constant, sidF expression increased and the expression of csrA decreased during co-culture with A. mauritaniensis ATCC 50676. For L. longbeachae (env.), while lolA was up-regulated at 50–70 °C, expression was not detected at 80–90 °C and in co-culture. In conclusion, while heat treatment may reduce the number of viable Legionella spp. in monoculture, results indicate that the presence of A. mauritaniensis increases the virulence of L. pneumophila during heat treatment. The virulence of Legionella spp. in co-culture with Acanthamoeba spp. should thus be monitored in water distribution systems where temperature (heat) is utilized for treatment.