Grotto may be grungy; Legionnella found in Playboy Mansion’s cave

The L.A. Times reports the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease have been found in the Playboy Mansion’s grotto, the famed artificial cave that houses a whirlpool spa (right, the precise location the bacterium was found).

The bacteria, legionella pneumophila, are a suspect in the illnesses among attendees of a DomainFest fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles on Feb. 3.

Previously, health authorities had said only that the bacteria legionella pneumophila were identified at a whirlpool spa at the Playboy Mansion. The precise location of that spa was made public during a presentation by Dr. Caitlin Reed at a conference of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta last week. The Times reviewed a copy of the presentation on Friday.

In her presentation, Reed presented data showing that among everyone who attended the conference, the highest risk of illness was found to be in people who attended the Playboy Mansion party on Feb. 3, as opposed to people who attended parties at hotels.

Reed presented a classic whodunit public disease investigation in her presentation. Twitter, Facebook and an online poll were key tools to help scientists track down the source of illness.

Reed’s presentation on the role of social media in helping to crack a case is available at

Los Angeles County health officials were spurred into action on Feb. 11 after receiving a call from a journalist about the large number of illnesses following a DomainFest convention on Feb. 1-3; many attendees had begun writing on blogs and social media about widespread illnesses among conference attendees.

Reed said social media were helpful in the disease investigation, which helped investigators identify the outbreak quickly, enabling them to receive responses quickly from attendees, who had traveled from 30 countries; and allowed for the issuing of speedy recommendations for patients to receive lab testing.

There were some negative side effects, the presentation said, including “wasted effort responding to rumors” and that it “amplified inaccurate media stories.”