The clinical presentation of Legionella arthritis reveals the mode of infection and the bacterial species: case report and literature review

BACKGROUND While Legionella is a common cause of pneumonia, extrapulmonary infections like arthritis are scarce. Here, we describe a case of monoarthritis due to Legionella bozemanii, with no history of pneumonia. We provide a literature review of the 9 previously published Legionella arthritis and highlight a dichotomous epidemiology suggesting different physiopathological pathways leading to joint infection.
CASE PRESENTATION A 56-year old woman under immunosuppressive treatment by oral and intra-articular corticosteroids, methotrexate, and tocilizumab for an anti-synthetase syndrome was hospitalized for worsening pain and swelling of the left wrist for 3 days. Clinical examination showed left wrist synovitis and no fever. The arthritis occurred a few days after an accidental fall on wet asphalt responsible for a cutaneous wound followed by a corticosteroid intra-articular injection. Due to both the negativity of conventional culture of articular fluid and suspicion of infection, 16S rRNA and specific PCRs were performed leading to the identification of L. bozemanii. Legionella-specific culture of the articular fluid was performed retrospectively and isolated L. bozemanii. The empiric antibiotic therapy was switched for oral levofloxacin and rifampin and the patient recovered after a 12-week treatment.
CONCLUSION We report a case of L. bozemanii monoarthritis in an immunosuppressed woman, following a fall on wet asphalt and intra-articular corticosteroid injection. The review of the literature found that the clinical presentation reveals the mode of infection and the bacterial species. Monoarthritis more likely occurred after inoculation in patients under immunosuppressive therapy and were associated with non-Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1 (Lp1) strains that predominate in the environment. Polyarthritis were more likely secondary legionellosis localizations after blood spread of Lp1, the most frequently found in pneumonia. In both settings, 16S rRNA and Legionella-specific PCR were key factors for the diagnosis.

as reported in: BMC Infect Dis. 2019 Oct 21; 19(1): 864