Spartan Bioscience, a biotechnology company specializing in DNA testing, has launched a new Legionella detection product[i].
It is the first device that allows testing for Legionella to be undertaken on site, as opposed to samples being taken away and tested in a laboratory. The device, called the Spartan Cube ®, is about the size of a mug and performs the test in around 45 minutes. The system is the winner of the 2018 AHR Expo Innovation Award for Indoor Air Quality, as judged by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)[ii].
Legionella is a common type of bacteria that can grow anywhere where there is stagnant water at around 20 to 40 degrees. It is often found in cooling or condensing towers, dry/wet cooling systems, hot and cold water systems and spa pools[iii]. It can also be found in soil and potting mix, and there have been cases where the bacteria were found in unusual water sources, such as hosepipes[iv].
When inhaled through airborne water droplets, legionella bacteria can cause pneumonia-like infection in the lungs. Most infections in humans arise from exposure in places such as hotels, hospitals or offices; it is very rare to catch Legionnaires’ from home exposure[v]. Legionnaires’ tends to occur in outbreaks, where multiple patients will be affected from the same source. Symptoms include persistent cough, difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, and fever. Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics, and will last for one to three weeks. Legionnaires’ is fatal in 5-10 % of patients, though this figure can be higher in those with underlying medical conditions[vi].
Weekly testing with the Spartan device can detect Legionella bacterial growth early, and allow for cleaning and decontamination of the source, before levels are high enough to be hazardous to human health. Current testing methods involve samples being sent to a laboratory and tested, which takes up to two weeks. However, Legionella bacterial growth can reach outbreak levels in shorter times than this.
‘On-site Legionella DNA testing is the first practical way to monitor and prevent Legionella outbreaks in buildings,’ said Paul Lem, CEO of Spartan Bioscience. ‘With widespread testing, there is the potential to basically eradicate Legionnaires’ disease’. [vii]
[ii] Spartan Bioscience Announces Legionella DNA test. ACHR News. 29 January 2018 https://www.achrnews.com/articles/136467-spartan-bioscience-announces-legionella-dna-test (Accessed 5 February 2018)
[iv] Legionella in the garden. Compliance for Landlords. 20 June 2017 http://www.complianceforlandlords.com/advice/legionella-in-the-garden/ (Accessed 5 February 2018)
[v] Legionnaire’s disease. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/legionnaires-disease/ (Accessed 5 February 2018)
[vi] Legionellosis. World Health Organisation, November 2017. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs285/en/ (Accessed 5 February 2018)
[vii] Ibid ACHR News.