Dr Tara Beattie, from the University of Strathclyde, said: 'Disease causing micro-organisms arewidespread in the environment, and therefore it is not too surprising that species of Legionella(pictured) that can cause human disease are present in compost'
WHAT IS LEGIONELLA LONGBEACHAE?
Legionella longbeachae can be found in potting mixes, compost heaps andcomposted animal manures.
How Legionella longbeachae are spread is uncertain.The bacteria may be breathed in or spread from hand to mouth.Legionella longbeachae can remain on hands contaminated by handling pottingmix for periods of up to one hour and can be removed by washing.It cannot be spread person-to-person
To minimise the risk of infection when handling potting mix, gardeners should:
Wear a face mask
Open bags with care to avoid inhalation of airborne potting mix
Moisten the contents to avoid creating dust
Always wear gloves to avoid transferring the potting mix from hand tomouth
Always wash hands after handling potting mix - even if gloves had beenworn
'It may be that the change in composition of composts in the UK, moving awayfrom peat based products, could be resulting in species such as Legionellalongbeachae being present in compost and therefore more cases of infectioncould occur.'
The findings are reported in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.
Last month health experts recommended putting warning labels on compost bags after a spate of Legonella longbeachae infections in Scotland.
Five people have been affected since the outbreak began in August.The latest victim was being treated in hospital in Dundee two weeks ago.