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Rapid Legionella detection using the Legionella chip

A Legionella chip able to rapidly establish the actual risk to public health – that is the result of years of cooperation between Kennemerland Regional Laboratory, TNO and the Vitens waterworks. Accurate and rapid information about harmful and harmless Legionella bacteria will reduce industrial and institutional costs considerably.

Legionella bacteria can be present in drinking and process water. Since the outbreak of Legionella in 1999, Legionella prevention has aroused considerable interest in the Netherlands. It takes twelve days for current culture-based methods to determine whether a source is contaminated with Legionella and no distinction is made between harmful and harmless Legionella strains. This restriction could mean that suspected contamination prompts a company or institution to close down as a precaution until the result is known. To date all Legionella pneumophila bacteria were regarded as harmful but research by Vitens, TNO and the Kennemerland Regional Laboratory has shown that only a small proportion of the Legionella strains present could actually be harmful to public health. The results of this study have been translated into the Legionella chip, a new kind of microbial diagnostic.

Legionella chip

TNO has developed a research method that can very accurately recognise specific characteristics in the DNA of the bacteria. One such characteristic is virulence, the capacity of the bacteria to cause people to be ill. By identifying this, a distinction can be made between harmless and harmful Legionella bacteria. This research method has led to the development, in cooperation with the Vitens waterworks and the Kennemerland Regional Laboratory, of a Legionella chip that is able to determine within four hours whether a water sample contains Legionella and whether the bacteria is a health risk. The prototype of the Legionella chip was presented during the Aquatech trade fair in Amsterdam in 2008. The Legionella chip is available for commercial use through LEGYON®, a company founded by Vitens and TNO in 2009.


Dr. Edwin Abeln

  • microbiology
  • preservation
  • guthealth
  • healthy food
  • feed

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