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For years, experts have been stumped by the way the Legionella bacteria has managed to elude the human body’s primary defence against infections – the immune system.

In a breakthrough discovery published in eLife journal, researchers have finally found the answer why Legionella, which is responsible for Legionnaires‘disease, has managed to escape the body’s defence mechanism.

When bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms invade the body, it responds with a process known as autophagy. This process involves literally eating the invading microorganisms before these can wreak havoc. 

However, some microorganisms like Legionella escape autophagy and survive inside the human body leading to infections and diseases. Legionella can evade autophagy by producing a molecule known as RavZ. This particular molecule disrupts the systems involved in autophagy.

Autophagy is a series of different events. One such event is the creation of the sacs which eat up invading organisms and debris inside the human body. A vital element needed in the production of these sacs is the molecule known as LC3-PE.

Legionella prevents autophagy by removing LC3-PE from the cells involved in the process through the use of RavZ molecules. Afterwards, the molecule is broken down into two different components, leaving the bacteria free to cause damage.

What is astounding with this discovery is the fact that although Legionella may be what people may call a simple organism, these life forms have evolved in a sophisticated manner in order to ensure their survival. The same mechanism used by the bacteria to evade the body’s defence systems has been seen in other bacteria like Shigella and Yersinia.

The researchers are hopeful that this discovery about the bacteria will lead to the development of drugs which can counter the adverse effects of Legionella.

But until such time, the next best defence that people can implement against Legionella is vigilance. That entails putting into place measures which actively monitor against the presence of the bacteria in household and commercial water supplies, including the use of Legionella test kits.

Using a Legionella test kit is a straightforward process. Upon receipt of the kit, all you have to do is to fill the bottles with water sample and then request for a courier pick up. Once the samples have been picked up, these will then be brought to a laboratory for testing and analysis. 

You will then receive a results sheet which outlines the interpretation of bacteria levels found in the water samples. Should the test yield a poor result, proper remedial actions will be recommended to you.