A valuable experimental setup to model exposure to Legionella's aerosols generated by shower-like systems.


University of Lyon, University Jean Monnet of Saint-Etienne, CNRS, EVS-ISTHME UMR 5600, F-42023, Saint-Etienne, France. Electronic address: [Email]


The mechanism underlying Legionella aerosolization and entry into the respiratory tract remains poorly documented. In previous studies, we characterized the aerodynamic behaviour of Legionella aerosols and assessed their regional deposition within the respiratory tract using a human-like anatomical model. The aim of this study was to assess whether this experimental setup could mimic the exposure to bioaerosols generated by showers. To achieve this objective we performed experiments to measure the mass median aerodynamic diameter (MMAD) as well as the emitted dose and the physiological state of the airborne bacteria generated by a shower and two nebulizers (vibrating-mesh and jet nebulizers). The MMADs of the dispersed bioaerosols were characterized using a 12-stage cascade low-pressure impactor. The amount of dispersed airborne bacteria from a shower was quantified using a Coriolis® Delta air sampler and compared to the airborne bacteria reaching the thoracic region in the experimental setup. The physiological state and concentration of airborne Legionella were assessed by qPCR for total cells, culture for viable and cultivable Legionella (VC), and flow cytometry for viable but non-cultivable Legionella (VBNC). In summary, the experimental setup developed appears to mimic the bioaerosol emission of a shower in terms of aerodynamic size distribution. Compared to the specific case of a shower used as a reference in this study, the experimental setup developed underestimates by 2 times (when the jet nebulizer is used) or overestimates by 43 times (when the vibrating-mesh nebulizer is used) the total emitted dose of airborne bacteria. To our knowledge, this report is the first showing that an experimental model mimics so closely an exposure to Legionella aerosols produced by showers to assess human lung deposition and infection in well-controlled and safe conditions.


Bioaerosols,Exposure,Legionella,Shower systems,

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