This is groundbreaking, as finding the exact source as quickly as possible is essential to preventing further infections – currently, a detailed analysis takes days.
The disease is caused by Legionella, bacteria that can cause life-threatening pneumonia in humans. Legionella multiply in warm water and can be dispersed into the air via cooling towers, evaporative re-cooling systems and hot water systems.
Legionella pneumophila is the most dangerous among the species and is responsible for 80 per cent of all infections. The origin of the outbreak is confirmed when the germs in the processed water of a technical system exactly match those identified in a patient. However, typically numerous systems must be tested in the process, and the requisite cultivation for the test takes around 10 days.
The Technical University of Munich scientists have developed a measuring chip that detects Legionella pneumophila and also identifies which of the approximately 20 subtypes is present.
“Compared to previous measurements, the new method not only provides a huge speed advantage but is also so cheap that we can use the chip in one-time applications,” said Dr Michael Seidel, Head of the research group at the Chair of Analytical Chemistry and Water Chemistry of the Technical University of Munich.