Innovative new approach uncovers higher rates of disease

August 16, 2013

Christchurch scientists have developed an innovative testing process to uncover patients with legionnaires' disease who would otherwise go undiagnosed.

The world-first approach identified four times as many cases of the potentially fatal disease in Christchurch than would have been picked up by conventional testing.

Professor David Murdoch of the University of Otago, Christchurch, worked with other colleagues from Canterbury Health Laboratories (CHL) on the project.

He says special tests are required to diagnose legionnaires' disease because it looks the same as other forms of on an x-ray and has similar symptoms.

It is often difficult for doctors to know whether to test a patient for legionnaires' disease, Professor Murdoch says. However, it is important to know if a patient has legionnaires' disease as specific antibiotics are required to treat it which differ from the standard treatment for pneumonia.

Professor Murdoch says he and his CHL colleagues suspected legionnaires' disease was markedly under-diagnosed. In 2010 they introduced a systematic testing strategy whereby all samples from Canterbury patients with pneumonia were tested by a special legionnaires' test called PCR whether requested by doctors or not. This approach was supported by .

"It's a very simple approach but we don't think anyone else has done this globally.''

"We have more than quadrupled the detection of legionnaires' disease with this new strategy and highlighted a big spring/summer peak in activity that is more predictable every year in Christchurch than . This peak is associated with gardening activities.''

The results of this study are published in the latest edition of the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal.

Professor Murdoch says over the past few years the Canterbury District Health Board has put considerable effort into communicating with the community about guarding against legionnaires' disease. CHL staff, University staff and the health board are now working together to better identify risk factors for legionnaires' disease and improved approaches to preventing this disease. They are also working with other colleagues throughout the country with view to rolling out the Canterbury approach to testing throughout the nation.

Explore further: Legionnaires' outbreak hits Ohio retirement center

Related Stories

US says Legionnaires cases triple over decade

August 18, 2011

(AP) -- Cases of Legionnaires' disease have tripled in the last decade, U.S. health officials said Thursday, but the risk of dying from it is lower because of more effective treatment.

Legionnaires' Disease kills three Britons in Spain

February 3, 2012

Three British tourists have died after catching Legionnaires' Disease in a Spanish seaside hotel, regional authorities said Friday, as they shut the hotel to stop the deadly bug spreading.

Study finds lack of testing for Legionella

September 27, 2011

A new study from Rhode Island Hospital shows that guidelines concerning testing patients for possible community-acquired pneumonia due to Legionella may underestimate the number of cases being seen by clinicians. The study ...

Recommended for you

Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA

October 20, 2016

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material. These modifications—chemical tags known as ...

Food-poisoning bacteria may be behind Crohn's disease

October 19, 2016

People who retain a particular bacterium in their gut after a bout of food poisoning may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease later in life, according to a new study led by researchers at McMaster University.

Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

October 19, 2016

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly—a ...

Scientists uncover new facets of Zika-related birth defects

October 17, 2016

In a study that could one day help eliminate the tragic birth defects caused by Zika virus, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have elucidated how the virus attacks the brains of newborns, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.