Research Projects (Third party funds)

Legionella populations in freshwater systems in Germany, Palestine and Israel

Understanding the ecology and virulence of Legionella spp. populations in freshwater systems in Germany, Palestine and Israel

Immunofluroszenzmikroskopie von Legionella pneumophila im Trinkwasserbiofilm.Immunofluroszenzmikroskopie von Legionella pneumophila (grüne Zellen) in Trinkwasserbiofilm (blau).

Bacteria of the genus Legionella cause waterborne infections resulting in severe pneumonia. In Europe, 70% of the cases of the so-called Legionnaires’ disease (LD) originate from strains of L. pneumophila serogroup (Sg) 1, 20% from other L. pneumophila serotypes and 10% from other Legionella species. In contrast, in the Middle East most legionella infections are due to L. pneumophila Sg3.

Overall objective

The overall objective of this project is to advance current knowledge on the ecology of legionella in freshwater systems, the environmental factors affecting their occurrence, virulence potential and infectivity and to understand their transmission to humans. We will analyze the major environmental factors regulating the abundance of legionella, such as grazing and assimable dissolved organic carbon, because the occurrence of these heterotrophic bacteria in aquatic habitats is highly dependent on these factors.

Integrated molecular approach 

We will use an integrated molecular approach based on high-resolution diagnostics of environmental samples and clinical isolates to determine the abundance, activity and virulence potential of Legionella populations in-situ. Combining environmental and molecular epidemiological data, we aim at understanding the link between ecology and population dynamics of legionella and cases of LD.

Epidemiology of legionella

The project will result in a novel understanding of the molecular epidemiology of legionella and provide new surveillance tools and strategies to prevent LD.


Project Leader - Germany

Dr. Priv. Doz. Manfred Höfle
Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research
Dept. Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology
Inhoffenstraße 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Deutschland
Tel. +49 531-6181-4234


Prof. Dr. Dina M. Bitar
Al-Quds University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
P.O. Box 19356, Jerusalem, Abu Dies, Palestine
Tel: +972 22799203


Dr. Malka Halpern
University of Haifa, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Science Education - Biology
Oranim, Tivon, Israel, 36006
Tel.: +972 49838978



Funding agency


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