Legionella Testing Lab Services
Legionella bacteria, the causative agent of legionellosis, are commonly found in fresh water including manmade aquatic systems such as cooling towers, indoor plumbing, pools, and other water features. In nature, Legionella bacteria multiply within amoebae and other single-cell organisms of the subkingdom protozoa. When the bacteria are aerosolized and inhaled they can cause infections with symptoms of an atypical pneumonia. There are two distinct forms of legionellosis - Pontiac Fever and the more severe form of Legionnaires’ disease (LD). In particular, people with compromised immune systems or respiratory disease, smokers, and the elderly are considered at high risk of contracting disease from exposure to Legionella bacteria. In a review of LD cases from 2000 – 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggested that 9 out of 10 cases could have been prevented with a more effective water management program.
Eurofins EMLab P&K is one of the leaders for Legionella testing services in the U.S. with more than 15 years of experience and the largest capacity to handle high volumes of Legionella samples. We offer a nationwide network of laboratories and drop-off service centers for logistical support. We support Legionella testing for legionellosis risk management, case investigations and post-remediation through state-of-the-art culture methods and DNA based technology. You can choose from Legionella culture testing services using a variety of methods including ISO 11731, CDC, Legiolert by IDEXX as well as internationally validated PCR testing via iQ-Check®.
NOTE: To view sample reports, select a specific Legionella service below.
How do I implement a water management program?
The CDC toolkit provides information on developing a water management program to reduce Legionella growth and spread in buildings. It references ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188 which was published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The standard establishes minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for building water systems. It applies to commercial, institutional, residential and industrial buildings excluding single-family homes. The basic outline of a water management program can be summarized in 7 steps starting with the formation of a management team which is responsible for planning, implementation and documentation of the program.
Why do I need to test for Legionella?
The implementation of water management plans and the testing for Legionella bacteria in the context of case investigations is largely driven by legal liabilities. With the publication of ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 188 a “best practice” has been established that can protect against litigation if executed. In New York City and in the State of New York, cooling towers and health care facilities are subject to regulations concerning control and monitoring of Legionella bacteria. In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) demands implementation of water management plans to prevent and control Legionella infections.
What levels require action?
Because there is no safe concentration we have to focus on risk management and maintain conditions that are acceptable for the specific application and exposure group. The CDC and ASHRAE Guideline 12 provide general guidance on result interpretation and recommendations for action levels. In the absence of local or State regulations the published threshold guidelines provide a reference for water risk management teams to set action levels.
Most water management programs will describe and define critical control points that allow for sampling, testing and application of control measures. Testing for Legionella bacteria is typically performed via spread-plate culture as outlined in ISO11731 or by the CDC. Other testing methods include culture testing by Legiolert® (IDEXX), quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) and procedures based on serological assays. While each test method has advantages and disadvantages concerning sensitivity, specificity and turn-around-time, the spread-plate culture is considered the reference method and “gold standard.”
The number and types of sites that should be tested must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Due to the diversity of plumbing and mechanical systems in buildings, you may need more than one sample from the suspect source. Generally, any water source that may be aerosolized should be considered a potential means for the transmission of the Legionella bacteria.