Intertek speeds up testing for Legionnaire’s Disease

Test provides result in 24 hours, rather than standard 10 days

Hospitals are often large buildings with complex water systems through which bacteria can easily spread

Intertek has launched a faster and more-specific test for Legionella, the water-borne bacterium that may cause Legionnaire’s Disease in humans.

The test provides results in 24 hours, rather than the standard 10 days.

Legionella bacteria is a common environmental bacterium that naturally inhabits fresh water at low levels. If not properly maintained, modern water systems provide favourable conditions for Legionella colonisation at high levels and this can quickly spread through complex water supply and storage systems.

Potential human infection by the bacteria can cause Legionnaire’s Disease, a form of pneumonia that can be fatal in vulnerable groups and, even when treated effectively, can lead to potential life-altering health effects.

It is particularly problematic for hospital patients who may have reduced immunity, such as very young children and the elderly.

Legionella bacteria is transmitted by aerosols and minute water droplets, so gives rise to potential infection routes from taps, showers, spa pools and cooling towers, making it a major bacterium of concern in buildings such as hospitals and care homes.

To support recent progress in the analysis of Legionella in water, Intertek’s water testing laboratory has expanded its capabilities to include qPCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction).

This gives results in 24 hours, allowing a rapid reaction to potential outbreaks.

Dominic Holloway, Intertek UK water laboratory manager, said: “An outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease can result in the closing of all, or part, of a hospital, which is not only very disruptive, causing financial and reputational damage to these centres, but, more importantly, it can also affect human lives.

“By decreasing our turnaround times, outbreaks can be identified and treated far quicker than before, lessening disruption and reducing risk to life.”