Certain amoeba love snacking on the waterborne pathogen, legionella. However, over millions of years, legionella bacteria have evolved ways to combat becoming a meal for waterborne amoeba. This seems like a harmless way for legionella to thrive in its natural environment, it has also created a way for legionella to get around being stopped by human white blood cells. White blood cells function similar to amoeba, consuming invading bacteria to protect the human body.
Legionnaires’ disease, the disease caused by legionella bacteria, is a type of pneumonia. Because our lung’s main defense is white blood cells, treating legionnaires disease is quite difficult. Typically, white blood cells consume bad bacteria in our bodies after being notified of the attack by the healthy cells targeted by the infection. Legionella infects white blood cells themselves, crippling their abilities to eliminate the infection. When legionella is consumed by white blood cells it releases more than 300 different protein types into the white blood cell. When this barrage hits, many of the normal processes of the white blood cell are disrupted, including the use of ubiquitin. Without ubiquitin, white blood cells cannot tag other proteins for destruction.
Legionella doesn’t just stop the white blood cell from using ubiquitin though. The bacteria must be careful, balancing stopping the cell from using ubiquitin to tag the legionella for destruction but allowing the cell to maintain operating enough so that it doesn’t die right away. Legionella uses the molecular machinery in white blood cells to replicate itself, effectively turning our white blood cells against us. Treating legionella is made that much harder because of its ability to use our own defenses.
Protect yourself from legionella, make sure that proper filtration is set up for all water sources you encounter. Since legionella is spread by aerosolized water droplets and can survive municipal chlorination, any water faucet or spigot can be a vector. Ice machines, sink faucets, and shower heads are all common ways legionella comes into contact with humans. Here at AquaMedix we have filters for showers, faucets, ice machines, and any other water source you might want to protect. Contact us with questions or to learn more about our products.
Sources: Cornell Chronicle, Krisy Gashler, 6/17/20, Mann award winner illuminates infectious diseases