Compost Harbors Legionnaire’s Disease Bacteria
Compost may harbor Legionella spp., the bacteria responsible for Legionnaire’s disease, a potentially deadly form of pneumonia. A recent study in the United Kingdom found the bacteria in 15 out of 24 commercially-available composts.
Previous research identified the bacteria in compost from Australia, Japan and Switzerland, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In Australia, several cases of Legionnaire’s disease were traced to contaminated compost in 1989.
“Any environment where you have pathogenic bacteria could be a source of infection,” said Tara K. Beattie of the University of Strathclyde and co-author of the recent study published in Clinical Microbiology and Infection in a press release. “It should be emphasized though, that although Legionella seem to be common in compost, human infection is very rare, especially if you consider the volume of compost sold and used.”
To avoid risks from bacteria-carrying composts, the study authors recommended opening bags of compost in well-ventilated areas. Gardeners should wash their hands thoroughly after handling compost.
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