Cooling towers may be hot spots where new forms of disease-causing bacteria emerge, scientists report. The American Chemical Society's Sharon G. Berk and colleagues set out to determine whether cooling towers - fixtures that extract waste heat and provide cooled water for air-conditioning, manufacturing and electric power generation - encourage a worrisome relationship between amoebae and bacterial pathogens of amoebae (single-celled organisms that dwell in water).
Numerous human pathogens have been detected in amoebae, and evidence suggests that amoebae act as incubators in which certain human pathogens multiply profusely. The microbe responsible for Legionnaires' disease is among the bacteria that reproduce in amoebae. Infected amoebae swell like a balloon, burst and release bacteria that then can infect other hosts.