About a month ago, we wrote about Spartan Bioscience and their rapid on-site Legionella DNA testing. Last Wednesday, Spartan Bioscience announced their results from a study examining Canadian federal government buildings. This 12-week long study tested 51 different cooling towers across Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto and compared their weekly on-site Legionella DNA testing against the monthly Legionella culture testing that at the moment, tends to be the far more common method for testing.
The Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) designed and ultimately performed this study in collaboration with Spartan Bioscience, a notable partnership since PSPC is one of the first organizations ever to adopt exhaustive Legionella testing standards. As such, the PSPC has often been seen as proactively protecting public health by utilizing new standards and technologies.
According to Paul Lem, M.D. and CEO of Spartan Bioscience, this study “is the first scientific study of weekly Legionella DNA testing and we are grateful for PSPC’s support. It is an excellent example of how the Canadian government supports innovation.” According to the study, 39% of the cooling towers tested positive for Legionella DNA levels greater than 10 bacteria per milliliter and approximately 8% of the cooling towers tested positive for Legionella DNA levels greater than 100 bacteria per milliliter. To put this in context, regulations in Quebec require cooling towers to be disinfected when the Legionella level is over 10 bacteria per milliliter while New York State requires some kind of action when the level hits 20 bacteria per milliliter.
Additional findings from the study provided evidence to suggest that the on-site Legionella DNA testing was in fact significantly more accurate than the traditional laboratory Legionella culture testing and that the weekly on-site Legionella DNA testing was able to quickly detect when Legionella bacteria grew to a greater action level. Basically what this means is that while Legionella bacteria typically doubles between 22-72 hours when in water systems or the natural environment, when in an ‘amplifier site’, the doubling time can be as low as 2.5 hours, making the need for routine testing that much more vital.
This testing proved interesting in a few ways. For one, it is admittedly a bit worrying to see that around 39% of cooling towers for Canadian federal government buildings may end up with Legionella bacteria in such high levels that many government regulations like those in Quebec would mandate the disinfection of the cooling towers. Yet on a more positive note, it is exciting to see this technology being utilized and actually developing results. Indeed if an on-site testing kit like this one can truly become widely available, then the opportunity to conduct weekly Legionella testing will be that much more available and thus, allow for overall better monitoring of water distribution systems and the security of them as a whole.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.