An important factor in tackling any infection control emergency is knowing which tests are needed to diagnose the problem and evaluate the associated risks. In the case of a Legionella outbreak, there are two distinct methods that can be used to identify harmful bacteria. Would you know which one to order in the case of an emergency?
Method 1: Legionella Culture
If you’re looking for accuracy, the Legionella Culture method is the way to go. Regarded as the “gold standard” for Legionella testing, this method is used to detect and selectively identify Legionella bacteria from other bacteria in a sampled environment.
Unfortunately, this method has a major drawback: a long timeline. Legionella cultures can take up to 10 days to complete, so they are not ideal for testing in emergency situations. This is especially true in hospital settings where early action is critical to protecting high-risk patients from harmful Legionella exposure.
The verdict: the Legionella Culture method is most appropriate for use as part of a routine monitoring or risk management program.
Method 2: Legionella PCR
With a turn-around time of only a few hours, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Method is ideal for Legionella outbreak situations. This method arms hospital management with timely information on the presence and sources of Legionella in a healthcare facility so that immediate action can be taken to prevent further exposure.
While the PCR Method is essential for fast-detection of Legionella bacteria, it does fall short in that it cannot distinguish between living and dead cells. As a result, follow up testing using the Legionella Culture method is usually required to determine if viable Legionella bacteria still pose a risk. However, unless the tested environment has been recently altered, it can usually be assumed that Legionella bacterium detected with the PCR method indicate a current or future risk for Legionella bacteria.
The verdict: The PCR Method is a fast and reliable method tailored for use in emergency or outbreak situations. Just make sure to follow up with a standard Legionella Culture if the PCR test comes back positive.
What steps should be taken if Legionella bacteria are detected?
If a Legionella culture or PCR test detects Legionella bacteria in your water system, the first step is always to eliminate potential future exposure to the bacterium. Further action should be determined by your healthcare facility’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Plan (HACCP). You can find more information on Legionella testing and risks on our website.
How can AMI Environmental Help Protect Building Occupants?
At AMI Environmental, our main goal is to assist clients and create a safe building environment, while adhering to laws and regulations. With decades of experience, our Industrial Hygiene Professionals’ purpose is to help our clients not only protect building occupants, but also manage risk. Once we’ve done our job, you can enjoy the peace of mind that everyone will be protected from harm. AMI will work to establish and maintain a safe work environment, including surveying your facility for risks; provide testing within your facility; maintain testing protocol; and assist in the recording process. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Dan Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.