Research – Rapid Testing and Interventions to Control Legionella Proliferation following a Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak Associated with Cooling Towers



Most literature to date on the use of rapid Legionella tests have compared different sampling and analytical techniques, with few studies on real-world experiences using such methods. Rapid tests offer a significantly shorter feedback loop on the effectiveness of the controls. This study involved a complex of five factories, three of which had a history of Legionella contamination in their cooling water distribution system. Multiple sampling locations were utilised to take monthly water samples over 39 months to analyse for Legionella by both culture and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Routine monitoring gave no positive Legionella results by culture (n = 330); however, samples were frequently (68%) positive by qPCR for Legionella spp. (n = 1564). Legionella spp. qPCR assay was thus found to be a good indicator of cooling tower system health and suitable as a routine monitoring tool. An in-house qPCR limit of 5000 genomic units (GU)/L Legionella spp. was established to trigger investigation and remedial action. This approach facilitated swift remedial action to prevent Legionella proliferation to levels that may represent a public health risk. Cooling tower operators may have to set their own action levels for their own systems; however, in this study, 5000 GU/L was deemed appropriate and pragmatic. View Full-Text

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