Is there a killer lurking in your shower?

Potentially deadly bacteria found lurking in South Australian showers


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HIDDEN DANGER: Is your bathroom shower a potential source of Legionnaires disease?

HIDDEN DANGER: Is your bathroom shower a potential source of Legionnaires disease?

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Scientists find Legionnaires bacteria hiding in bathroom showers.

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POTENTIALLY deadly bacteria linked to Legionnaires disease could be lurking in your shower, according to South Australian scientists. 

Researchers from Flinders University say South Australians should take steps to minimize their risk of exposure to the bacteria Legionella pneumophilia, which is the most common cause of the pneumonia-like disease.

Microbiologist and lead author Dr Harriet Whiley said simple steps like increasing your hot water temperature to 65 degrees celsius and running showers every week to replenish the water sitting in pipes may help.

Out of 68 samples collected from showers across Adelaide a significant number tested positive for bacteria - 75 per cent with Legionella and 64 per cent contained traces of Legionella pneumophila.

“More than two thirds of the samples proved to be a significant source of Legionella spp and L. pneumophila, as a result our bathrooms should be considered a potential source of Legionnaires disease,” said Dr Whiley.

Legionnaire’s disease occurs when a person breathes in contaminated water or dust, and the corresponding bacterial lung infection causes symptoms like fever, chills, shortness of breath, coughing and in serious cases can be fatal.

Dr Whiley said elderly residents, lung disease sufferers, and heavy smokers are most at risk of contracting the disease.

“It’s particularly significant given our increasingly aging population, when you consider the growing number of elderly residents who wish to remain in independent living so they can stay a part of their existing communities for longer.”

She said increasing the water temperature was a simple step. "The findings support a previous study in Germany which noted water systems set under 60 degrees were more likely to harbour Legionella," she said.

The study was published in the journal Pathogens.

Dr Whiley says the study highlights a lack of public awareness about the risks associated with Legionella contamination, proving the need for public health campaigns which inform vulnerable people about steps they can take to reduce the risk.

She said some showers had hot water temperatures as low as 34 degrees celsius "which is concerning because the optimum temperature for legionella growth is 38 degrees". 

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